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John Cutts (Devon, UK)

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Two Caravans
Two Caravans
by Marina Lewycka
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Dos Caravanas - worth brushing up your Spanish for!!, 27 Mar. 2016
This review is from: Two Caravans (Paperback)
I read this book in Spanish, and I believe that language unwittingly captured more of the humour than the English version does.
It’s the story of a group of European and African jobseekers and their experiences in The Garden of England, Kent, all at first as strawberry pickers. They work on a farm which houses them and organises their lives like clockwork.
Irina from Ukraine, 19 pretty and recently at school, is the narrator looking for her dream man - will he be more like Mr Brown from Let's talk English, or Pierre from War and Peace? He certainly won't be like Vulk -( great Dickensian name )who is the one- step -removed- from- a- trafficker employment agency rep who delivers her to Leapish's Farm in Kent.
There she meets Andriy, also from Ukraine, an ex- miner with thwarted scholastic ambitions -a rustic philosopher with old fashioned ways and morals.
The other characters become archetypes - the "good hearted Yola" oldest female and correspondingly the leader. Her niece Marta, ugly and religious, and two displaced Oriental girls searching for a way back into University, with all the challenges of language, lack of money and homesickness. Male characters include wide boy Vitaly from the Eastern bloc, Emmanuel from an orphanage in Malawi and Tomasz an older boy/man taking a sabbatical from the Polish civil service…
The two teams of pickers, boys and girls, have to live in the two caravans of the title and their characters are neatly explored early on sorting them out into "winners" and "perdidors" (Spanish for loser!)
The farmers mind-set is laid out too, so we have some understanding of the degree of exploitation the incomers are unwittingly gradually drawn into.
And then comes my favourite character in the story - Dog.
Dogs psychology lends a beautiful light touch as he becomes the assistant narrator, describing the developing events in a most wonderful simple and child- like way and all in CAPITAL LETTERS….
Events overtake the two groups of pickers, leaving them no alternative but to follow their Fate, developing into a cross country assault course where they are see- sawed from one tricky situation to another, both personally and job wise.
There is a wonderful description of travelling through Canterbury by Land Rover, towing a caravan, and ending up parked outside the Cathedral and attending a choir practice, and the effect that has on everyone.
No such luck for Irina who falls back into the clutches of the repellent gun toting Vulk, until she summons up the courage to make a run for it….
So now the scene is set for all the characters to either break off and separate, or meet up for further adventures.
And this is quite a long book - much longer in Spanish, - so if your interest is captured by what Marina Lewycka has written before I won't spoil it for you. Only to add this becomes much more than a series of comic stories.
The way life can seem to hold events and challenges in store for us is the theme that carries the story forward. I can imaging skipping through this for the funny bits in two or three days if reading in English. I am so glad I had to slow down (to look up vocab and grammar) to read it in Spanish over a period of about 3 months to get the full meaning and value from the book.
For me it could have gone on longer.
Luckily Ms Lewycka has written other books, though I do think this one could film well in the right hands.
Maybe by the director of Withnail and I. Now who could play Dog???

Rich and Mad
Rich and Mad
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars author a closely guarded secret but not for long, 17 July 2015
This review is from: Rich and Mad (Kindle Edition)
I also didn't realise this was aimed at the YA sector, it fits well with Nicholsons other Sussex stories.
Every time I open one of his books it seems to be like meeting an old set of friends.
IMO there is NO ONE who portrays character like William Nicholson.
It really makes so much difference when there are believable and vulnerable personalities who have very much the same kind of thoughts as the rest of us.
The story is as much about Maddie and Rich's family and friends as about the main two souls.
There is quite a tightly woven sub story showing how Maddies friends, and relatives of friends can behave....
I was surprised at some of the revelations - good to be surprised - not surprising it took about 350 pages to unravel all the strings.
It added to the interest to be taken away from the main story - and to discover the issues that lots of us come across on a daily basis with our own relatives.
A lot of vibrant characters emerged and I wouldn't be at all surprised if we see this story as a mini series on TV soon.
I am already choosing the cast in my head .....
Any doubts as to age group - its for everybody.
Easy reading - further thinking required.

How I Live Now [DVD]
How I Live Now [DVD]
Dvd ~ Saoirse Ronan
Price: £2.83

5.0 out of 5 stars First novel success and film adaptation for Meg Rossoff and How I live now., 22 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: How I Live Now [DVD] (DVD)
I have watched this film again and again and will probably see it more times.
I saw it first with no sound on a train while I was travelling between Toledo and Granada and probably because I had read the book I knew what the film was immediately.
It does differ slightly from the book, which I also loved and read several times over a 5 year period.
As a review on the book cover states: Meg Rossoff has a magical and utterly faultless voice (Mark Haddon)
It is written in the first person, with a quirky style - lots of caps and asides.
The narrator Daisy is a sardonic anorexic teen from NY city and also a posthumous child with a remarried father..
She receives a real psychological grounding on arriving in The UK to stay with her three cousins in Wales.
A real attachment develops between them all especially between Daisy and her eldest cousin Eddy, then war comes,and they are forcibly evacuated away from their rural summer idyll and separated.
Daisy then has the dual tasks of looking after her little cousin Piper and setting off across war torn England (or Wales) in an attempt to reunite with the boys.
We enter a Survivor like tale which becomes a showcase for Daisy - magnificently displayed by Saoirse Ronan - to show what resources a teenager in love can muster.
There are all the challenges you could invent and plenty of shocks.
It may fall into the new YA category but I think its deeper.
It works on many levels.
How do you react when life alters beyond recognition?
What happens to all your 'stuff'.
We see a bit of the old Daisy as the stresses of the trip tell.
Yet she is unfaltering, driven and powerful.
Lots of wonderful country scenery, animals, and the blind numbing presence of 'authority'
This film is a true precurser to the current vogue of Divergent/Insurgent and the Hunger games.
And the emotional content is pretty full on.
For a first novel - a lot to be proud of.
And for a film adaptation - tasteful, restrained and beautifully cast.
In my view destined to be a Classic.

Like I Used To
Like I Used To
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars See Lucy Live - currently on tour!, 20 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Like I Used To (MP3 Download)
less directly accessible than Lucy's numerous you tube videos - but go and see her live.
This is a singer convinced of the power of paying your dues, and to hear Night Bus or Shiver, or Lines live will probably make you shiver.
It must be a real challenge to get a great live sound as most venues seem to persist with the old formula bass and drums rock solid and the PA struggling to rise above the bass cabs .....
Lucy's music is delicate, multi textured and one day we will get an album really doing her music justice.
I will continue to go back to you tube - wish it had been there when I was a teenager - becos -due to digital sound quality of most capture devices what you hear is what you got when it was being played.
I will go and see her again - there were plenty of us older ones on Tuesday at Concorde 2, and an unexpected feature was a crowd rendition of Bikes - everyone happy to scream out loud. A real feel good gig.
New album emerging soon - I'm happy to pay the extra pound for the 17 track version .....

Fresh Meat - Series 1-3 [DVD]
Fresh Meat - Series 1-3 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Zawe Ashton
Price: £12.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big Bang fizzles out compared to this., 12 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A colleague old enough to know far better drew my attention to this comedy series well after it was "off air"
All I can suggest is Bring it Back!
At last a combination of personalities that genuinely strikes sparks off each other while appearing realistic.
The plot :
6 students share a house at Uni.
They come from widely different backgrounds.
Their beliefs and values differ widely.
The freedom that year one at uni provides is a perfect backdrop to their efforts to find purpose and meaning away from home.
I remember my own student days - so what's new?
Let me just say this is NOTHING remotely like The Young Ones.
Far more credible while still stretching the imagination as to surreal situations and problems.
Do not watch if offended by swearing - this is the closest I have heard to the way students actually talk to each other.
Get past that - and ask yourself do I like: I'm Sorry I haven't a clue, Cold Feet (without the seriousness, ) Withnail and I, and The Big Bang Theory.
If this is news to you - order the DVDs and ration them out for good behaviour.
You're in for a treat.

by William Nicholson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars New Sussex writer, 12 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Motherland (Paperback)
This is a breath of fresh air.
Pamela delights us and to be taken back to just before her birth is an elegant start to the lives of the main characters - wartime friends.
Their interactions become brought to life simply, gradually and then wound together.
The secret of the attraction of this book must simply be characterisation.
The players all so highly developed by W Nicholson it is as if he knows them all well.
Of course he does- they are his.
Not easy.
I can think of many authors -also known for war time fiction, that sell massively yet do not present such convincing personalities.
I live in Sussex where this book is set, what a relief not to have place names disguised.
I did not mean to read this book so quickly - though now I know there are several more to discover I'll slow down.
Its a novel. Contemporary. Suitable for adults and YA, and I would have happily read it as a child after finishing an Arthur Ransome.

No Title Available

4.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected content and a new direction for this author, 2 May 2014
Sadie does it again!

Even though the genre of this tale appears totally different to her other works - equally distinctive and both different, Sadie Jones finds another layer to her voice in this dream like time warp tale of a golden age.
To begin with I was put off by the tone of family life in a privileged family. I wondered what kind of a pastiche was being attempted.

Don't be (put off) - there are surprises aplenty in store!
We are gradually introduced to a variety of characters - none at first very striking or strong.
The description of the surroundings is elegant and restrained, the scene beautifully set - as we would expect from a writer of this stature.
Something must be coming besides a young girl's birthday - but what can it be?

A little later once a few tensions have established betyween characters, we are told of a local rail accident and the incoming of a number of "survivors" to the isolated country house.

From here on the tenor of the story begins to verge on to the surreal.

A kind of Gormenghast-like quality descends - and I strongly urge you to slow down and enjoy it.

I am sure Sadie Jones has read the Gormenghast trilogy - and no disgrace in taking inspiration from that .

We are treated to the eccentricities of many members of the family - and beyond the family,

My unashamed favourite is Smudge or Smudgey with her own agenda, older sisters party nonwithstanding.

The dinner scene with the strange addition of a new friend of the brother becomes the main pivot point and the centre of the denoument when it eventually comes.

Yet I was not shocked - except perhaps at the readiness of these cultured creatures to form a pack and attack.

Lets not play spoilers - you have to read it for yourself.

Changes happen as a result of one catalytic character.

Everything is changed - yet all somehow stays the same.

Only we are possibly changed in the way we view relationships.

Very, very accomplished.

I cant wait for her most recent book.

Corinne Bailey Rae Live In New York [Gift Pack 2 CD + DVD]
Corinne Bailey Rae Live In New York [Gift Pack 2 CD + DVD]
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £8.22

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OMG what a piece of memorabilia re Corinne Bailey Rae, 18 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This was the best value product for Easter ever.
Lasted longer than chocolate, and I still love it to bits.
The live versions of the songs only strengthen the hold this charming composer and singer has on my heart.
The Led Zeppelin song is amazing, and to see it on DVD is brilliant.
The DVD is worth three times the money alone, as it features videos promoting singles, as well as an interview with Corinne in Little Venice. The New York Concert CD is great and to have this packaged archive of a tour with the band playing like clockwork is a real gift.
Won't be selling it because every time I watch or listen to it I find something new and beautiful in the performances.

How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Mastery
How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Mastery
by Missy Vineyard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars curiosity leads to revelations in the world of Alexander Technique, 25 Jan. 2013
To begin a book aiming to attract a new audience to a new product by starting with case histories seems to me inspired thinking. I was hooked into the narrative from page one.

How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Masterythe title) has a lot going for it.

It has first hand case histories - across the board of human interest.

It has drawings that are accurate and sensitive - in good light they are fantastic.

It has a tone of gentle enquiry and a journal like quality from the author so that you feel you are going with her on this voyage of discovery.

It is written recently with accessible language so you feel both involved in the story and invited to accompany the writer in her day to day life.

All the characters she comes across have encountered a physical problem that affects their quality of life. Does that ring any bells with any one?

Missy Vineyard doesn't pretend to know everything immediately or have all the solutions, yet life changing patterns emerge for the various characters who appear in the narrative. In their different ways all the characters immeasurably improve their lives. Just go ask them- as she might say.

I particularly like the retelling of the story of the author's son learning to be better at baseball armed with only the most rudimentary "instruction" from his school coach. How often have you been told - usually by a so called expert - to "Just try harder?" Obviously this can be of no value at all if we are unable to work out what to do to begin with let alone do more of the same....

When the mother -who had never played the game- and was coming at it with a childs' eye - taught the boy to try a different way I was literally on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what would happen next.

And of course he does find a way through, with mum's coaching; and he literally steps up to the plate and ups his game.

So this is a story of a coach learning to be a coach and affecting people's lives for the better armed with her experiences as an Alexander teacher.

And its likely that not many of you know what an Alexander teacher is or why you would want one.

But if you want to find out what happens when a little of the Alexander technique is applied to the day to day world of ordinary people,( who end up doing remarkable things )- then you have to read this book.

And read it in the old fashioned way - as slowly as possible.

Or have it read to you someone who's voice you love.

Then you will gain the maximum benefit from this truly remarkable book.

In my opinion it is in a class of its own as being a companion book for newcomers to the technique as well as being a guide for trainee teachers in the Alexander Technique.

My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You
My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You
by Louisa Young
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 4, no 5 stars, 11 Aug. 2012
No messing about

From Chapter 1 the characters we are to follow for the next 402 pages are rapidly established.

Our story begins in 1907 - ( remember the era of the Bastable children? - E Nesbit)

Soon war will begin to flicker through Europe, and is about to plunge a third of the world into darkness.

But for now there is the calm and growth in the lives of 2 children growing up in London.

As they develop so the story builds ...

And maybe this is a big part of the simple power that Louisa Young exhibits -the story unfolds at a steady pace that draws us deep into the worlds of Riley and Nadine.

Louisa Young shows great technical ability, and yet there is much more.

The commentary lying underneath is always present - social, sexual and scientific.

She understands the creative life of an artist - a musician - a writer.
And she reveals humanity rather than perfection.

And it becomes clear that this is not writing for the satisfaction of a task beautifully performed - a grander design runs through; the minute Riley commits himself to his timeless future we are ready to go with him into the darkness - hoping against hope he will be one of the precious few to be saved.

His energy brings light to the tale, and the sheer liveliness of him warms us enough for us to want to put aside for him those obstacles of class and fortune at the time this story is set.

So we find Louisa Young is a historian as well as a story teller.
She understands the prevailing beliefs and values from 100 years ago.

And truths such as " they all - your fathers , uncles, brothers, grandparents on returning never spoke of it again (the war)- yet some of them must have been dying to surely!" show the authenticity that lends this work such compulsion

Little touches such as her painting of Julia - only a minor character -yet leaping off the page with her vast distance from a bullying mother, her situation silencing her to the frustration of her own life and yes, even illness to herself ring as true the chimes of Big Ben in a London fog.

And her sister-in- law - Rose, described as `unlikely to marry' yet superbly practical, grounded and accomplished - one of the truly strong and anchoring presences that gives the story solidity.

I found the broad reach of the narrative virtually Dickensian - yet Dickens can be known too for his light touch and humour.

And as the brushing of light and shade keeps us focussed, unconsciously perhaps, we understand that here is an author that we can trust - she may shock, and she may challenge -but she will keep us set to the task ahead - in the same way as her diverse cast set to their own tasks -even while facing their own sometimes grisly facts.

All the tributes on the covers and the flyleaf tell us - Read this book,

There is something for you - it will play on your emotions and it may refresh you.

And it is an example of old fashioned story telling where both the reader and the writer have become absorbed in a story, which based on fact, virtually tells itself.

4, no - 5 stars.

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