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JohnBrassey "Author Of Give Me Your Tomorrow" (Framlingham Suffolk)

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The Anchoress
The Anchoress
Price: £2.29

5.0 out of 5 stars An Extremely Thought Provoking Novella, 29 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: The Anchoress (Kindle Edition)
This is an unusual book for me in that it is one of the few books that I have read twice. It is not very long and I felt that a second reading was beneficial and gave me more insight into and understanding of the protagonist Maggie who spends most of the novella locked away in her walk in closet/bathroom.
In the womb-like darkness of her hideaway she hears voices - some real and some, perhaps not - as she reflects upon her childhood, her artistic mother and a remote cliff top tower in which her father once attempted to settle the family.
Paul Blaney's writing is highly evocative and the reader shares Maggie's darkness in the claustrophobic atmosphere of the L-shaped room. It is not all darkness and, like Maggie, we warm to the light relief and charm provided by the philosophical pizza delivery man who proffers pearls of wisdom whilst sliding pizzas under the crack beneath the door. Other voices and visitors are not quite as welcome.
Maggie's isolation and contemplation provides her with the space and time that she needs to come to terms with her past whilst outside in the real world her unusual circumstances become news in her community.
This is an extremely thought provoking novella and I enjoyed it very much (both times).

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Price: £4.19

5.0 out of 5 stars A Lovely Story - Poignant And Heartening, 19 Sept. 2014
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Until I read The Buddha In The Attic recently I knew nothing of the plight of Japanese immigrants in America during WWII but that novel opened my eyes to the problems they encountered.Having read and very much enjoyed that book I was drawn to Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet due to its similar subject matter. I was not disappointed.

This is a totally delightful novel. It covers so many difficult life choices (and there were certainly many such choices for a Chinese boy growing up in Seattle in 1942) and deals with each beautifully.

In common with many novels involving children on the verge of adulthood we see aspects of bullying, first love and parenting. But a mixed race relationship, first generation immigration and a background of wars raging between America and Japan and China and Japan gives added interest to each of those themes.

Jamie Ford tells Henry and Keiko's story in a flowing style which switches regularly between past and present. His characters are generally decent (or at least well-meaning) people and the story is fast moving with some excellent scenes including a memorable chase. However my overriding feeling for the book is a degree of poignancy that I have not experienced for some time.

I strongly recommend it.

The Girl Who Couldn't Read
The Girl Who Couldn't Read
Price: £2.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Thriller With Just One Disappointment, 7 Sept. 2014
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When the man claiming to be Dr John Shepherd arrives at a mental hospital for women on an isolated New England island in the 1890’s we share his horror at the inhuman treatments provided for the patients by his new employer, the martinet Morgan and his sadistic female sidekick O’Reilly.

The Gothic building set in parkland provides a perfect backdrop for sinister goings on with plenty of creaking doors and dark corridors inhabited by a silent presence as Shepherd settles into his psychiatric role. He offers a benevolent moral treatment to the enigmatic Jane Dove (“the girl who couldn’t read” of the title) in an attempt to prove to Morgan that there is an alternative to the hospital’s wicked and tyrannical remedies.

The author creates an extremely evocative picture of the stark and grim institution especially as the winter chill sets in and the novel has the true feel of a period piece with a nod to The Brontes (particularly Jane Eyre), Poe and Henry James. The reader becomes enthralled in the Shakespeare loving and highly literate narrator’s story and, little by little, discovers more about his true nature..

Although billed as a sequel to the wonderful Florence & Giles, the novel stands on its own. I would certainly recommend that you read the prequel as it is quite excellent but it would make little difference if you read it before or after reading this.

Although billed as a literary thriller, it is not verbose or wordy but is written in a clear, concise and urgent style that grips you and compels you to read on. It is a thriller of the highest order.

And the one disappointment in my review title? It’s the disappointment that I have finished the book and will struggle to find something as engaging to read next.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 13, 2014 11:50 AM GMT

Disraeli Avenue
Disraeli Avenue
Price: £5.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Imaginative, Original And Thought Provoking, 1 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Disraeli Avenue (Kindle Edition)
Caroline Smailes continues to be one of the most original writers around today - pick up any one of her books and you are certain to find something different, something interesting and something highly imaginative.

In this novella she revisits Disraeli Avenue the north east of England setting for her debut novel In Search Of Adam - a sad and harrowing tale involving neglect and abuse. Now we are invited into each of the terraced houses in the avenue and given a brief taste of life inside. As every house has different occupants and we hear from them individually Ms Smailes has given herself a hugely difficult task in creating over thirty unique chapters in over thirty different voices and to her great credit she pulls it off.

Although Disraeli Avenue was the scene of Jude's horrors in the original novel, not every family in the avenue has a miserable existence and there is a good spread of feelings and variety in the characters who include, amongst many, a bone idle builder, a fresher student, a peculiar piano instructor, a flasher, adulterers (and cuckolds) and, memorably for me, the gossips whose chapter is funny and written in a wonderfully authentic north east dialect.

Although there is (and has to be) a sad undertone to the novella, it is not grim and has great moments of humour as well as despair. It carries a very important message and will hopefully provoke a great deal of thought.

Love and War on the Kensington Front
Love and War on the Kensington Front
Price: £2.32

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Engrossing True And Personal Account Of The Great War, 15 July 2014
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With the Centenary of the Great War in full swing, many will be thinking about how their own family coped with the events a hundred years ago and what life was like for them.

Hilary Weston is better placed than most as she inherited the diaries written by her Great Aunt Gertie between 1914 and 1919. Gertie was an unmarried woman in her thirties when war broke out and her account is totally fascinating and engrossing. Hers was not the view of the common woman as she was fortunate enough to live in a prosperous London neighbourhood and enjoyed the company of minor aristocrats and people of rank - not quite Downton Abbey but certainly not a typical Londoner with her trips to Eton and dinners with high ranking officials.

Gertie's writing style is very much of its time, quite chaste and prim and proper. There are men in her life but her relationships are conducted in the very formal manner of the period. As the book is in diary form we are able to see her relationships as they develop and it is this aspect of the diaries that make the book much more than a simple account of life during the war and such an interesting and personal read.

Although the war looms large throughly the book and the risk of a close one's death is ever present we also see that there was a social life too with theatre trips, dinners in fancy restaurants and an afternoon watching cricket.

Hilary Weston has done her Great Aunt proud in her editing of the diaries. The words flow almost like a novel and there are very few superfluous entries.

Although there is a comprehensive forward to the book in which the cast of characters are listed, I would have liked to have seen this in a list or family tree format somewhere so that I could refer to it quickly as Gertie had so many family members and friends and it was not until the later stages of the diaries that I finally got the hang of who they all are. I would also have liked to have seen the full dates on each diary entry as unlike a book with chapters, when you put it down and opened it at say Thursday 15th for example you could not always remember which month or year you were up to. For me the location of each entry would also be beneficial e.g. Thursday 15th July 1917 Chatham.

These criticisms are very minor ones (forgive my nitpicking) as I enjoyed this extremely topical trip into the past immensely and strongly recommend it to any lover of both social history and historical romance.

Price: £5.31

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rachel Joyce's Prose Is A Delight, 24 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: Perfect (Kindle Edition)
The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry left me in tears but, whilst Perfect touches on similar areas of love and loss, I feel that it is a slightly (just slightly) more upbeat novel.

When schoolboy Byron hears that there are going to be an extra two seconds added to the year to correct time, he becomes obsessed about it and, as a result, there follows an accident that has repercussions for the rest of his life. This is the unusual concept on which the book is based.

Although I felt that some of the events in the novel felt a little contrived (an organ concert in particular) the story is fascinating as poor Byron and his friend James attempt to resolve the fallout from the accident. Byron's downtrodden mother and his near absentee father are beautifully drawn characters as too is the supermarket cafeteria worker in the future whose story runs parallel throughout the book.

Rachel Joyce's prose is an absolute delight - she weaves her words together poetically and it is worth the price of the book for this alone.

The Proof of Love
The Proof of Love
by Catherine Hall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars A Summer Of Heat And Love, 24 Jun. 2014
This review is from: The Proof of Love (Paperback)
From the moment the book opens with a lone cyclist flying down a steep lakeland pass in the searing heat of the summer of 1976, I was hooked.

76 was a truly memorable summer and Catherine Hall captures its heat rising day after day until it and her plot reach a crescendo. Brilliant Cambridge mathematician Spencer Little has come to the Cumbrian Fells to escape something unpleasant in his recent past. He's looking for work and finds a job as a farm hand and a bed in a shepherd's hut.

With a drunkard farmer and his angry brother, life is not easy for Spencer but Mary, the farmer's wife, and her daughter Alice are more sympathetic characters. I don't want to give away the plot by saying too much but each character is beautifully drawn; so too is the landscape which comes alive with the flora and fauna of Lakeland. The story moves along with pace and the novel has a fabulous feeling of place and time - although it's 1976, the tiny community (and to some extent Spencer) are living in the past.

This very unconventional love story is highly recommended.

The Buddha in the Attic
The Buddha in the Attic
Price: £3.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautifully Constructed History Of Forgotten Immigrants, 24 Jun. 2014
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On opening the book one is immediately struck by the fact that our narrator is not the usual "I" but "we". I've only come across this once before - in the wonderful "We The Drowned" by Carsten Jensen - it worked very well in that novel and it works again here.

The "we" in question are young Japanese girls and women making their way to new meet new husbands in America and Julie Otsuka creates an amazingly evocative atmosphere from the moment that they embark on their journey through to the outbreak of World War II. By using the "we" technique the story is not limited to the trials and tribulations of one of the girls but instead we see a wide spectrum of what their new world holds. For many it is not the promised land they had hoped for and their husbands don't turn out as expected. For a lucky few, life is good.

For a relatively short book, the author has crammed in a great deal and we learn a lot about a group of people who are very much forgotten today (I certainly knew nothing about them before reading this).

It leaves the reader with plenty to think about and a true sense of understanding what these young women went through in their very difficult move to another continent.

The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81
The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81
Price: £3.59

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, sad and heartwarming, 6 Jun. 2014
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I loved Driving Jarvis Ham and was delighted to discover that J.B.Morrison had written another novel.

When I saw the title I wondered if I would be in for another The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared (another favourite) but, whilst there are some parallels in an elderly but still very young at heart protagonist , Frank Derrick is more grounded in the reality that is old age in Britain today. This does not mean that the book is all doom and gloom - Morrison's wonderful humour prevents that and, in Frank Derrick, he has created a very funny lonely old man of the 21st century.

Frank falls under a milk float and , in doing so, his life takes a turn for the better bringing the lovely young professional carer Kelly Christmas into his life. Kelly gives his life purpose and the much needed company that his widowhood has deprived him of.

The book provides plenty to think about - old people are so often portrayed as ,well, OLD but Frank is thoroughly modern in his outlook - long silver hair, a friend who was a Punk, not too old to consider a tattoo and fully aware of email and the Internet even if not immersed in them. And that's how pensioners are today ( I speak from experience).

I urge you to give this a try. It's funny, it's sad but most of all it is heartwarming.

And when you've read it, go and make a cup of tea for a lonely old person.

Christmas Dodos: Festive Things on the Verge of Extinction
Christmas Dodos: Festive Things on the Verge of Extinction
Price: £0.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Stocking Filler Full Of Nostalgia, 9 Jan. 2014
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After enjoying Steve Stack's earlier books I planned on putting Christmas Dodo's in all of the family's stockings but was disappointed to find it sold out in St Andrews where I was spending Christmas.

Thanks to Amazon Prime I managed to get some copies just in time and I (and my relations) had fun reminiscing on Christmases past as Steve has captured the spirit and essence of the season beautifully in this compendium of things that are fast disappearing from the yuletide scene.

I particularly liked the Christmas cards that wouldn't stand up as these were just about the only type of cards we ever got and it was a Christmas duty to ensure that they didn't waft down from the mantlepiece into the fire and give us more than a yule log to worry about.

Although it's too late for Christmas 2013, get your order in early for 2014 to avoid disappointment. A sure fire winner of a stocking filler.

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