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Mary Zac (Oxford, Oxon United Kingdom)

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Life's a Drag
Life's a Drag
by Janie Millman
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feel-good Fiction with a Poignant Punch, 3 Aug. 2015
This review is from: Life's a Drag (Paperback)
OK, first full disclosure in that I know Janie and have been on a couple of the writing courses that she co-hosts at Chez Castillon. Normally I wouldn't write book reviews of people I know, but as I loved the book, I thought what the heck, be open about the contact and those reading can decide if my review has merit.

There aren't many books that make me cry (the bit at the end of E. Nesbit's "The Railway Children" where Bobby says 'Daddy, oh my Daddy' being the only other), but there was an incident just over halfway through the book that had me blubbing - happy tears it has to be said, tinged with poignancy. It was at this point I decided "Life's a Drag" was something special, because it was about caring and nurturing and loving people who they are where they are, not where you think they should be.

I like the plot that involves drag queens in San Francisco appearing at a Valentine's Day Drag Queen show in a sleepy Suffolk village; it's unusual and handled very well. I love the characters, particularly Drew or Honey Bee as she is better known and Edward, the initially snobby local squire. I really liked the camaraderie within and between the two communities and just the love and kindness, understanding and empathy that infuse the story. These were all people I wanted to meet and spend time with, although I don't think I could drink as much as them.

Although the book is complete, there are so many characters with potentially interesting stories that it felt like the first instalment of a series, such as Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City". In many ways the tone reminded me of a TV series called "Grace and Frankie" I recently saw on Netflix; where two husbands admit to their wives they've been having an affair for twenty years and want to be together in the first episode. The rest of the series deals with how everyone, including their children, deal with that in a liberal, positive way. "Life is a Drag" has that same feel and it's so refreshing to read.

I like this kind of novel where diversity is celebrated, where people look out for each other and the 'baddies' are generally complex, unhappy people, some of whom change their perspective and behaviour and end up the heroes. Those that don't are isolated and unhappy, perhaps ripe for change in a future instalment. I loved the way Janie has pushed the boundaries of women's mainstream fiction in bringing together two communities that you wouldn't normally expect to mix. This is unashamedly feel-good fiction, with back stories to many of the characters that pack a mighty emotional punch, not least in its depiction of what drag queens go through on their road to self-acceptance. For all these reasons I loved it and hope to read more about this fascinating cast of characters.


The Kept Woman (Little Black Dress)
The Kept Woman (Little Black Dress)
by Susan Donovan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Romance with Pizzaz, 14 May 2015
I've read this book a few times over the years, because it makes me laugh out loud and I just love the romance that develops between Samantha and Jack, including the great friendship that builds between them. I also love the sub-plots - particularly the Christy/Brandon storyline and the characters such as Sam's best friend Monte and their kids. They're people I'd love to know in real life and on a grey, rainy day like today it's a perfect tale for lifting the spirits.


The Olive Branch
The Olive Branch
Price: £0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Appreciating Food Through A Good Book, 9 May 2015
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This review is from: The Olive Branch (Kindle Edition)
I read this book in one gulp travelling from Bordeaux up to Paris by train and loved every minute of it - the descriptions of Puglia, the food, the olive oil tasting, the slow burn of the relationship, the family dynamics, the friendships that Ruthie makes, her sheer persistence, everything. And the house, my God the house. I wanted to go and live there and do it up too. The Olive Branch was just a perfect way to while away the hours. More practically, it has also made me want to search out some good olive oil and take the time to really taste what I eat.


The Colonel of Tamarkan: Philip Toosey and the Bridge on the River Kwai
The Colonel of Tamarkan: Philip Toosey and the Bridge on the River Kwai
by Julie Summers
Edition: Hardcover

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reclaiming Colonel Toosey's place in history, 11 Oct. 2005
Julie Summers has written an exceptional biography about her grandfather Philip Toosey. It is well-researched, brilliantly written and has social insights that go far beyond most military biographies. She also puts in quirky details that add colour and interest.
Though spanning her grandfather's whole life, it is his experiences as a PoW that make it so compelling. We see how he treated his men and tried to protect them, how he was able to command them so well because he was not a career soldier and therefore could think outside the box. He had a great sense of humour, but was firmly based in reality, understanding the needs of his men after the war, for example, when he asked for a load of condoms to be delivered.
What I particularly like about the biography is that Ms Summers uses her privileged position as his grand-daughter to show, rather than hide, the family side of Colonel Toosey - warts and all. We see, for example, the marital difficulties he had with his wife post-war. Summers found when researching that theirs was not an isolated incident. How refreshing to highlight such points when the social cost is often hidden under a stiff upper lip.
As the World War II slips further into the past, I hope that this book gets a wide readership. Ms Summers' fresh, simple style makes real a world that today, sadly, seems almost fictional. It also rescues her grandfather from the perception that he was somehow like Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai. He was a much bigger hero than that.


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