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British Bulldog: A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery (Mirabelle Bevan Series)
British Bulldog: A Mirabelle Bevan Mystery (Mirabelle Bevan Series)
by Sara Sheridan
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mirabelle's Epoque, 29 May 2015
I first encountered the lovely Sara Sheridan at an Edinburgh Women For Independence conference where she was one of the speakers. I was so taken with not only what she had to say about women and politics but also with her enthusiasm that I decided to look up her books once I got home.

I am not usually a fan of murder mysteries and detective stories - I much prefer fantasy or sci-fi when it comes to fiction. However, Sara's descriptions of her latest series about Mirabelle Bevan, a former Special Operations Executive agent in World War Two who now works for a small debt collections agency in Brighton have completely ensnared and captivated me. I quickly read the first two novels in the series - "Brighton Belle" and " London Calling" and am hoping to get a hold of the third one, "England Expects" soon.

Sara was kind and gracious enough to send me a copy of the fourth and latest chapter of Mirabelle's adventures, along with some of her earlier works, for Glasgow Women's Library, following chat on a visit to Glasgow. I believe that "British Bulldog" could be read as a stand-alone novel but would recommend that readers do seek out the previous instalments, as it follows on so well with the continuing stories of Mirabelle, her sidekick Vesta Churchil and Superintendant Alan McGregor. This story takes us from the familiar settings of Brighton and London to mid-1950s Paris. I don't know very much about this era but Sara's rich descriptions do make you feel that you are right there with well-researched attention to detail and tone.

This tale is one of escaping prisoners of war, Nazi colloborators and secret agents and weaves a story that brings in more details from Mirabelle's past and her relationship with her late lover Jack Duggan. Mirabelle reminds me somewhat of Agent Peggy Carter from the Marvel franchise, in that she is determined and courageous and not afraid to take risks, while being really stylish as well as multi-layered and at the same time carrying a torch for a lost love. Sara is not afraid either to tackle issues of the time, particularly around Mirabelle's associate Vesta, a young black woman in post-war England.

The Mirabelle Bevan series is definitely one that I would highly recommend - strong, capable women in an era where it was still not entirely acceptable to be one, fast-paced action and intrigue in classy locations with an even balance of glamour and post-war austerity and a heroine with real emotion and depth. I do know that there will be more adventures of Mirabelle and her team in the offing and I for one am looking forward to them. If TV producers are searching for a new addition to dramas such as "The Hour" and "Call The Midwife" they would do well to get in touch with Sara.

Just Girls
Just Girls
by Rachel Gold
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.57

5.0 out of 5 stars “Wish I could have spent the whole day alone with you”* – a review of “Just Girls” by Rachel Gold (Bella Books 2014), 3 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Just Girls (Paperback)
Having read and enjoyed her first book “Being Emily” and then subsequently reviewing it for Glasgow Women’s Library, the author Rachel Gold read my review and was kind enough to send me 2 signed copies of her latest novel “Just Girls.” (I will be giving one copy to GWL and still have one spare if anyone would like to read and review it.)
This book links nicely with and follows on from its predecessor. It tells the story of two young women as they navigate college and the wider world. Ella Ramsey is a friend of the protagonist of “Being Emily” – Emily of course – and her partner Claire, who make welcome guest appearances. She comes from a very different background from that of Emily – her family have long been very supportive of her transition and she arrives at Freytag University well on her way as teenage girls are to becoming a fully-fledged young woman, ready to begin her studies and the next stage of her life. However, not only does the college deal cackhandedly and insensitively with having their first trans* student by not allowing her to share a room with another female student and instead giving her separate rooms but some indiscreet and possibly malevolent person in the admissions has let it slip that there is a trans* student attending the college, much to the outrage of certain students and staff.
Enter Jess Tucker, a gay cis student at the college who upon hearing of this vicious and unnecessary outing, takes on board the mantra of “an injury to one is an injury to all” and publicly declares herself to be the as yet unnamed trans* person. Slurs are painted on her dorm door and she is attacked verbally and physically. She meets Ella through the uni’s LGBTi group and, although Ella does not initially reveal herself to be the woman Jess has stood in defence of, they become firm friends and end up sharing rooms.
For me, this book is not so much about Ella (if it had been it could easily have become a re-tread of Emily’s story, as good as that was) but more about Jess and her journey. She clashes with her lover, the faculty and her own way of thinking as she explores friendships and relationships beyond her prior sphere of experience.
Mention must be made of Ella’s friend from home, Nico, who is genderqueer. Yo is a nicely rounded character who adds to the richness of this story of young people today.
As I said for “Being Emily”, this is an excellent book for any young person to read as it is a story about people like them and unlike them, which is always the basis for a good tale. What comes across strongly is that, to use my favourite quote from that great woman philosopher Marge Simpson, “our difference are only skin deep but our sames go down to the bone.” This is also another fine read for any age – we were all young once and as I always maintain, still changing, still evolving.
At a time with a myriad of discussions around what “makes” a woman (or a man for that matter) and where others seek to draw lines in the sand I’d like to add my own tuppence worth - in a society where women make up 51% of the population yet are systematically ridiculed, shouted down, belittled, trolled, threatened, abused, raped and murdered, anyone and I mean anyone who willingly joins with us, stands shoulder to shoulder and declares herself WOMAN is my sister. I will don my armour with her, fight alongside her and defend her as she defends me, back to back and shoulder to shoulder. If you call yourself woman, as I do, that’s good enough for me.
*Lyric from “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” by Laura Jane Grace and Against Me!

White Rabbit
White Rabbit
Price: £3.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Watership Downers, 3 Jun. 2014
This review is from: White Rabbit (Kindle Edition)
I have to admit I'm not a fan of noir (I know, so sue me) but I enjoyed this twisty turny tale. I loved the recalcitrant protagonist Draygo (who I pictured as a very scuzzy but still sexy Toby Stephens - movie adaptors take note!) as he meandered reluctantly through the grimy backstreets of an underland wonderland.

Peppered with masses of references to all the things we know Kate enjoys (which are fun as always to spot) I'd love to read more about the psycho psychic and the world he inhabits, maybe in a series or a longer book form?

Unikirja: Dream Book
Unikirja: Dream Book
by K. A. Laity
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastinen, 30 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Unikirja: Dream Book (Paperback)
A fine mixture of both the retelling of folklore tales from her ancestral homeland of Finland with a selection of modern takes on older themes. The “mythic dreams” of ravens and cuckoos, magical transformations, early Christianity, shamans and murder ballads echo concisely the storytelling of Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ mistresswork, “Women Who Run With The Wolves” with a hearty Northern flavour. The more contemporary updates of werewolves and giants, sisterly saunas and a sweet story that had me You-Tubing the music of the Finnish harp, the kantele, show another side to modern life away from the more familiar Nordic detective fare we are more used to. Like a warm hug from a dear friend, these wee glimpses are perfect for snuggling up with at any time.

Price: £2.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not only. But also..., 30 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Extricate (Kindle Edition)
Short but sweet, this tale of seedy post war lowlifes certainly delivers. Putting me in mind of one of those old black and white films you would watch on a rainy weekend afternoon starring the likes of Dirk Bogarde and Sid James, "Extricate" tells a tale of grubby, greedy gangster types on the path to destruction. Add in some sleazy and seedy shenanigans that puts "Fifty Shades..." to shame and you have a tightly executed story from KA Laity's alter ego Wynd. And the nod to Messrs. Cook and Moore in the character naming adds a nice atmospheric touch. More please.

California Solo [DVD]
California Solo [DVD]
Dvd ~ Robert Carlyle
Price: £10.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely wee film, 28 Oct. 2013
This review is from: California Solo [DVD] (DVD)
Just a wee gentle film about a Scots musician who has made his home in the US. Nice backstory and well played, especially by Robert Carlyle and a fine turn from A. Martinez.

Big Fat Gypsy Gangster [DVD]
Big Fat Gypsy Gangster [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ricky Grover
Price: £4.99

4 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Ca't Beata Bita Bulla, 16 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Big Fat Gypsy Gangster [DVD] (DVD)
The Fighter. Get Carter (the original and classic one with Michael Caine and not the unnecessary "reworking" by Sly Stallone). The Wrestler. And of course, The Long Good Friday.

I bet Bulla likes these films. And so do I, which I think is why I enjoyed this affectionate tribute to all of them plus the ingredients so over-used by TV programme makers of recent years - gypsies, gangsters and yes, dwarves. A largely unheralded film, I only chanced upon it after hearing comedian and actor Ricky Grover (best known in my house recently as Matron Hilary Loftus in the marvellous "Getting On") being interviewed by Janice Forsyth on her Radio Scotland show on Saturday past. Intrigued, entertained and determined to see it, I searched for it online where I liked it on first on Facebook and then followed it on Twitter, where I persuaded a very nice man from the distributors to let me have a copy of the film after finding out that it was only having a limited cinematic release (that didn't include Glasgow) before being released on DVD on the condition that I spread the word. I also freely offered to do a review on my blog.

You join an American documentary film-maker and his crew who are bundled into the back of a Transit van with newly released bank-robber and local hero Bulla upon his release from prison and whisked away on a frenetic ride (partly on a hijacked tour bus) as he reacquaints himself with his manor (now run by Mason the cop who put him away, played by Eddie Webber) and his decidedly insane friends, relatives and associates. Among them are Auntie Queenie (a superb turn by Laila Morse, whose brother I believe has a film out too this week, bless him) enjoying a few spirits in more ways than one, and whose pub is in danger of being closed, and his financial and legal advisor Jik Jickels (the always great and, as is revealed, sexily hirsute Omid Djalili) plus a skilled and talented supporting cast including Peter Capaldi (rocking a fine beard as Bulla's "physician heal thyself" anger management therapist with the brilliant name of Peter Van Gellis), Steven Berkoff (as Bulla's guru) and Derek Acorah, who enthusiastically joins in the sport as mentor to wanna-be psychic Kai (played with equal gusto by Rufus Hound). I don't like to give away too much of the story - suffice to say I hope you will out loud and gasp at the situations they find themselves in as much as I did.

Plaudits and praise must most definitely go to Ricky Grover (who also wrote the script with Maria Grover) who breathes life and depth into his creation Bulla with an energetic and spirited performance that frankly should see him taking on less comedic and more serious acting roles in the future. He also directs a fine troupe of actors as his myriad of cleverly and wryly observed characters and draws the story to a satisfying conclusion, albeit with the help of tasers and a whiff (plus a swig) of lavender oil. I don't often get the chance to say thank you to a film-maker after seeing their work but I am happy to on this occasion and say well done to all involved.

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