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The Artist: In Their Shoes, Book 4
The Artist: In Their Shoes, Book 4
Offered by Audible Ltd

5.0 out of 5 stars Sooz Kempner brings Joy Attwood to vivid life, not to mention all the other characters too, 3 April 2017
An inexperienced author just a few months ago, Andrew Mackay is going from strength to strength in his partnership with Joy Attwood. Each book demonstrates this writer’s eagerness for experimentation and the development of his skills as a storyteller. Though he arguably made a few missteps with some sections of his last book, the same is certainly not true here.

THE ARTIST largely deviates from the episodic structure (not to mention the vulgarity) of earlier volumes in the series, with the protagonist taken (against her will) on a break-neck journey as an unwilling accomplice to a grand anarchic scheme.

After the excess of the previous volume, THE MODEL, which was overflowing with extraordinary ideas, THE ARTIST is an enjoyable change of pace. Mackay has crafted a fine, focused thriller with strong characters shot through with his trademark satirical black humour. What’s even more extraordinary is that he essentially did it in only 5 days.

Adding extra power to Attwood’s first-person reportage and Mackay’s inventive characterisation is comedian Sooz Kempner, who has emerged as a wonderful collaborator in bringing Mackay’s work to vivid life.

The first of the IN THEIR SHOES series to be available as an audiobook, the cover of the 6 ½ hour recording says it’s “Narrated by Sooz Kempner” but this is to understate her contribution. This particular artist throws herself into a fully-rounded performance, developing every character. The only unfortunate aspect to this version of the book is its undeniably inferior recording quality. It’s a little rough around the edges.

This is not a crisp, studio recording and I found it uncomfortable to listen to on headphones. Overlook the imperfections in the production, and listen to it on speakers, and you won’t regret taking the time for the experience. Kempner’s performance shines.


In Their Shoes: The Trilogy (The Teacher, The Actor & The Model): The Hilarious, Uproarious and Outrageous British Satire Series!
In Their Shoes: The Trilogy (The Teacher, The Actor & The Model): The Hilarious, Uproarious and Outrageous British Satire Series!
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Catch up with the first 3 adventures of Joy Attwood in this great value collection, 26 Mar. 2017
Andrew Mackay emerges as one of the most prolific, profane voices in British literature. After writing about what he knows best, in a fictional account of life as a teacher, he's developed the In Their Shoes series explore fantastical scenarios involving an actor and a model. And this is just the beginning. There are many more books to come. Catch up now with this great box set.

His first book was a fantastic debut which showed his promise as a writer. The sequel was arguably even better. A fast-paced read that movie fans especially will love! The third in the series was a blackly-comic nightmare trip into glamour and excess with a conclusion as disturbing as it is thrilling.

The following complete reviews were previously published seperately.

Volume 1: The Teacher

The first in a proposed series, IN THEIR SHOES: BOOK 1 – THE TEACHER is a novella in the form a journalistic piece by newcomer Joy Attwood. Although mostly a “day in the life” narrative, following secondary school teacher Rachel Weir, the writer at one point steps into her subject's shoes to teach a class herself.

Approaching her work in the manner of a documentary filmmaker like Morgan Spurlock, Joy is as interested in providing an outsider’s commentary and telling us about how she feels about what she’s encountering as much as getting under the skin of her subject and the profession of school teacher.

Author Andrew Mackay does a great job of making you question whether Joy really exists or is purely a figment of his imagination. Joy is even credited as co-writer. Although this is his first foray into fiction of this kind, he shows tremendous skill in his ability craft a fast-paced, insightful (dare I say educational) story and has a particular flare for dialogue.

It’s no surprise to learn (in the Acknowledgments) that Mackay has experience as a teacher. He clearly drew upon real life situations encountered in the profession while also taking an opportunity to vent about realities of a mostly thankless job and the awful formalities that choke the passion for education out of even the most dedicated teaching staff.

At only 194 pages (the story unfolds over approximately 175 of those), THE TEACHER plays out like a film. It would make an excellent audio book / drama. Light-hearted though it may be, it’s not for the faint of heart. Those familiar with the author from his podcasting (his latest show is called THE SMOKING LAMB) will be well aware of Mackay’s penchant for vulgarity and the grotesque and he cannot resist the urge to shock his readers. At times he even takes his reader on very uncomfortable detours. But it's all done with incredible wit and humanity.

----

Volume 2: The Actor

IN THEIR SHOES: BOOK 2 – THE ACTOR continues journalist Joy Attwood’s adventures experiencing a day in the life of an individual in a particular profession. Attwood is no Polly Toynbee, but although she spends only a single day attempting to experience that profession momentarily in the presence of a chosen subject, she reveals a great deal of scathing truth. Her portraits are unflinching and she does not shy away from recording and reflecting on her own reactions to what she observes and experiences.

That this is all an entertaining fiction no more diminishes that than if this were a Ken Loach drama. In BOOK 1 – THE TEACHER, the true author, Andrew Mackay, got under the skin of a profession he really lived. Here he’s on arguably less steady territory, he’s not an experienced actor, but triumphs. At least it appears so to one such as myself who has no direct experience of the acting world. It’s a satirical view of a vapid, aggressive, paranoid world of celebrity that is all too believable. True, it is one we’ve seen before, and thus one that could so easily have seemed trite. It doesn’t.

At just 202 pages (with approximately 20 of those either illustrations or the obligatory chapter-break blanks), THE ACTOR is a brisk read. Not least when Mackay ramps up the pace. His narrative sends his two lead characters, Attwood and movie star subject Pat Cake, racing through London to make one appointment after another (an interview, an audition, a film shoot, a premiere and even a theatre cameo) with increasing urgency. Each situation is fraught with disaster and there are plenty of other tense encounters and distractions for Cake and Attwood to content with (not least their own relationship as perceived through the lense of the tabloid press and gossip-mongers) throughout this admittedly implausible day.

THE ACTOR is a great read, though not for those adverse to vulgarity. Mackay reveals in the final pages of the book that he’s a screenwriter and film critic, and he certainly appears to have drawn on some of his experiences in (and views of) the film industry here. But it’s still largely new territory for the imagination of the author, who (although an experienced writer) only published his first book just 6 weeks earlier.

-----

Volume 3: The Model

Author Andrew Mackay’s imagination runs riot in the latest in his faux-journalistic series about Joy Attwood and her encounters with various professionals. This time the absurd and often grotesque world of modelling is skewered as we’re taken on a depraved rollercoaster ride with the statuesque Oksana Volkov.

I had approached THE MODEL with some trepidation due to its some-what sleazy cover illustration, which, being rather conservative at heart, I made a conscious effort to keep out of sight of fellow train passengers. I would be equally cautious of anyone I knew being aware of the more obscene passages I was reading. It’s not a dirty book, but it’s hardly mainstream and that’s its objective. It’s edgy.

Unlike his first two books, THE TEACHER and THE ACTOR, Mackay is this time furrowing seemingly unfamiliar ground. Departing from the style and format of his first two books, THE MODEL sees him stretching his metaphorical legs as a storyteller. Relishing the opportunity to escort readers to the ever darker recesses of his imagination. Conjuring a glamorous nightmare, he kept this reader constantly guessing as to what could possibly happen next.

Blending elements of horror, science fiction and thriller into his usually outlandish but fairly grounded “day in the life” tales, he also surrounds his protagonist with many more characters; and not all of them human. Most, if not all, visually presented for the reader in one of cover artist Kreacher’s poster-like illustrations, of which there are approximately 15.

Mackay has penchant for combining uncomfortable drama with satire and THE MODEL, his longest book to date, is at times very shocking. One could even say gratuitous. But this writer clearly knows what he’s doing. While some parts (whether comical or horrific) are described quite unflinchingly, others are more restrained but have more intensity because of what your own imagination adds. There is much suspense and many thrills this time around.

I have spent 4 weeks reading this book, dipping into it in small doses, and while I was at times frustrated with it, overall I really enjoyed it. Especially the final act. Far more outlandish and fantastical than his earlier works, which I would say I preferred, I felt that at times Mackay was getting too carried away with ideas and scenarios. I was particularly disappointed when Joy and her subject were side-lined. But by the time we come to the jaw-dropping conclusion the focus is well and truly on Joy and I loved almost every devastating page.


The Model: Volume 3 (In Their Shoes)
The Model: Volume 3 (In Their Shoes)
by Andrew Mackay
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A blackly-comic nightmare vision of glamour and excess with a conclusion as disturbing as it is thrilling., 2 Feb. 2017
Author Andrew Mackay’s imagination runs riot in the latest in his faux-journalistic series about Joy Attwood and her encounters with various professionals. This time the absurd and often grotesque world of modelling is skewered as we’re taken on a depraved rollercoaster ride with the statuesque Oksana Volkov.

I had approached THE MODEL with some trepidation due to its some-what sleazy cover illustration, which, being rather conservative at heart, I made a conscious effort to keep out of sight of fellow train passengers. I would be equally cautious of anyone I knew being aware of the more obscene passages I was reading. It’s not a dirty book, but it’s hardly mainstream and that’s its objective. It’s edgy.

Unlike his first two books, THE TEACHER and THE ACTOR, Mackay is this time furrowing seemingly unfamiliar ground. Departing from the style and format of his first two books, THE MODEL sees him stretching his metaphorical legs as a storyteller. Relishing the opportunity to escort readers to the ever darker recesses of his imagination. Conjuring a glamorous nightmare, he kept this reader constantly guessing as to what could possibly happen next.

Blending elements of horror, science fiction and thriller into his usually outlandish but fairly grounded “day in the life” tales, he also surrounds his protagonist with many more characters; and not all of them human. Most, if not all, visually presented for the reader in one of cover artist Kreacher’s poster-like illustrations, of which there are approximately 15.

Mackay has penchant for combining uncomfortable drama with satire and THE MODEL, his longest book to date, is at times very shocking. One could even say gratuitous. But this writer clearly knows what he’s doing. While some parts (whether comical or horrific) are described quite unflinchingly, others are more restrained but have more intensity because of what your own imagination adds. There is much suspense and many thrills this time around.

I have spent 4 weeks reading this book, dipping into it in small doses, and while I was at times frustrated with it, overall I really enjoyed it. Especially the final act. Far more outlandish and fantastical than his earlier works, which I would say I preferred, I felt that at times Mackay was getting too carried away with ideas and scenarios. I was particularly disappointed when Joy and her subject were side-lined. But by the time we come to the jaw-dropping conclusion the focus is well and truly on Joy and I loved almost every devastating page.


The Actor: Volume 2 (In Their Shoes)
The Actor: Volume 2 (In Their Shoes)
by Andrew Mackay
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fast-paced, light read that movie fans will love!, 23 Dec. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
IN THEIR SHOES: BOOK 2 – THE ACTOR continues journalist Joy Attwood’s adventures experiencing a day in the life of an individual in a particular profession. Attwood is no Polly Toynbee, but although she spends only a single day attempting to experience that profession momentarily in the presence of a chosen subject, she reveals a great deal of scathing truth. Her portraits are unflinching and she does not shy away from recording and reflecting on her own reactions to what she observes and experiences.

That this is all an entertaining fiction no more diminishes that than if this were a Ken Loach drama. In BOOK 1 – THE TEACHER, the true author, Andrew Mackay, got under the skin of a profession he really lived. Here he’s on arguably less steady territory, he’s not an experienced actor, but triumphs. At least it appears so to one such as myself who has no direct experience of the acting world. It’s a satirical view of a vapid, aggressive, paranoid world of celebrity that is all too believable. True, it is one we’ve seen before, and thus one that could so easily have seemed trite. It doesn’t.

At just 202 pages (with approximately 20 of those either illustrations or the obligatory chapter-break blanks), THE ACTOR is a brisk read. Not least when Mackay ramps up the pace. His narrative sends his two lead characters, Attwood and movie star subject Pat Cake, racing through London to make one appointment after another (an interview, an audition, a film shoot, a premiere and even a theatre cameo) with increasing urgency. Each situation is fraught with disaster and there are plenty of other tense encounters and distractions for Cake and Attwood to content with (not least their own relationship as perceived through the lense of the tabloid press and gossip-mongers) throughout this admittedly implausible day.

THE ACTOR is a great read, though not for those adverse to vulgarity. Mackay reveals in the final pages of the book that he’s a screenwriter and film critic, and he certainly appears to have drawn on some of his experiences in (and views of) the film industry here. But it’s still largely new territory for the imagination of the author, who (although an experienced writer) only published his first book just 6 weeks earlier.


The Teacher: Volume 1 (In Their Shoes)
The Teacher: Volume 1 (In Their Shoes)
by Andrew Mackay
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic debut - can't wait for the next in the series, 20 Nov. 2016
The first in a proposed series, IN THEIR SHOES: BOOK 1 – THE TEACHER is a novella in the form a journalistic piece by newcomer Joy Attwood. Although mostly a “day in the life” narrative, following secondary school teacher Rachel Weir, the writer at one point steps into her subject's shoes to teach a class herself.

Approaching her work in the manner of a documentary filmmaker like Morgan Spurlock, Joy is as interested in providing an outsider’s commentary and telling us about how she feels about what she’s encountering as much as getting under the skin of her subject and the profession of school teacher.

Author Andrew Mackay does a great job of making you question whether Joy really exists or is purely a figment of his imagination. Joy is even credited as co-writer. Although this is his first foray into fiction of this kind, he shows tremendous skill in his ability craft a fast-paced, insightful (dare I say educational) story and has a particular flare for dialogue.

It’s no surprise to learn (in the Acknowledgments) that Mackay has experience as a teacher. He clearly drew upon real life situations encountered in the profession while also taking an opportunity to vent about realities of a mostly thankless job and the awful formalities that choke the passion for education out of even the most dedicated teaching staff.

At only 194 pages (the story unfolds over approximately 175 of those), THE TEACHER plays out like a film. It would make an excellent audio book / drama. Light-hearted though it may be, it’s not for the faint of heart. Those familiar with the author from his podcasting (his latest show is called THE SMOKING LAMB) will be well aware of Mackay’s penchant for vulgarity and the grotesque and he cannot resist the urge to shock his readers. At times he even takes his reader on very uncomfortable detours. But it's all done with incredible wit and humanity.


Jean-Claude Van Johnson
Jean-Claude Van Johnson
Dvd

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great to see JCVD back in another high quality production, 19 Aug. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Great to see JCVD back in another high quality production. This is sort of a spin-off from the J.C.V.D. movie from several years ago. A completely dead-pan tragi-comedy with quirky jokes and amusing swipes at celebrity and action movie conventions.


Who's in the Loo?
Who's in the Loo?
by Jeanne Willis
Edition: Board book

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Abridged version!, 23 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Who's in the Loo? (Board book)
Although not stated, this is actually a shortened version of this story. (Which I had borrowed from a library.) Something that was very disappointing to discover and is the reason for the two star review.

It's not mentioned on the book or in the sales description that this is the case. I feel the publisher, Andersen Press, should be more transparent. It's not something I've encountered before as board book editions are, in my experience to date, usually complete just smaller.

When I contacted the publisher about my frustration they tried to justify their actions by saying "We find that our board books are usually enjoyed most by babies and the very youngest of children (who are perhaps not ready to move onto normal hardbacks or paperbacks) as their durability makes them ideal for this age-group. Often children at this age prefer a slightly shorter story, and we wanted this board book edition of 'Who's in the Loo?' to be appropriate for very small children, as well as children who are slightly older." Which doesn't explain why they hide the fact that it's abridged. It's deceptive in my view.

Rather than stating that it is a shortened version, they instead suggested that had I noticed the number of pages was fewer that I could have worked this out myself. This seemed absurd to me. It hadn't and wouldn't cross my mind to consider that an alternate print edition might be different in its content. I suspect others wouldn't either.

If you haven't experienced the full version of this fun story, then you may get on just fine with this. I felt duped. If you can, get the version with the CD of the story read by Stephen Mangan with sound effects. Brilliant.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 13, 2016 10:47 PM BST


Man of Steel: The Official Movie Novelization
Man of Steel: The Official Movie Novelization
by Greg Cox
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good book but a frustrating number of mistakes, 17 July 2013
I've just finished reading Greg Cox's novelisation of MAN OF STEEL and while I enjoyed the book there were many sentences with missing or repeated words which was frustrating.

There is an example of this every few pages in an otherwise well edited book. For example on page 308 there is a line that reads "There was a lot of work of work to do,". This was really annoying.

I also thought it was unfair that the author of this book doesn't get his name on the spine and in only small print on the cover. The aforementioned issues aside he wrote a very engaging book.

Although I have one more gripe. He misspelled Kryptonian on page 219. The n was dropped. He or the proof readers should have picked that up.


On First Name Terms With Angels
On First Name Terms With Angels
by Ross Friday
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A promising debut that unfortunately suffers from poor editing, 18 July 2011
A young man's life flashes before his eyes one dramatic Christmas Eve. This is the central premise of Ross Friday's ambitious, sprawling debut. A deceptively simple piece of contemporary fiction that takes an unusual approach to the form.

Clearly inspired by Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, Friday's opening chapters introduce us to a handful of characters whose lives will ultimately entwine. Largely eschewing dialogue, he establishes an unusual tone mixing humour, realism and tragedy.

One can feel Friday's excitement at approaching his novel. Dedication to his characters and his extravagant (occasionally violent) prose brings to mind Stephen King. He's clearly a talented individual and shares that popular writer's humanity, complexity and occasional lack of focus.

Driven by fully rounded characters but stalled by needless extravagances, On First Name Terms With Angels is a challenging book. One in which there is much to praise. Unfortunately its rewards are more than matched by frustrations.

While it's written in a simple style, the language isn't complex and neither are the ideas, it's hindered by a convoluted approach. Meandering non-linear plotting and a kitchen-sink approach, which one can expect of a first time author, lead the story to suffer.

Indulgently descriptive (mere moments consume pages) and prone to frustrating narrative tangents which slow the narrative, the weakness of the book is the excitement of the writer. For every delightful moment there's an unnecessary character introduced to convey one of his ideas. As such I became detached from the main characters and the overall impact of the story became diluted.

While reading it's also impossible not to feel disdain for Trafford Publishing's cavalier approach to proof-reading. Spelling and grammatical errors are plentiful; at one point even a character's name changes spelling between chapters. Such oversights on their part cannot help but reflect unfairly on the author.

This novel is extremely demanding on the reader. Friday often references throwaway moments from perhaps a hundred pages earlier and intricacies such as this flummoxed this casual reader. As one prone to flicking back and forth in novels with multiple characters, I confess I was unprepared for this book.

My short attention span is most inclined toward formulaic, linear stories from a first person perspective. Even after adjusting to the limited dialogue and strict voice-of-God narration, On First Name Terms With Angels was a difficult read. The three months I've spent with this book have often been as frustrating as enjoyable.

Filling his work with vivid ideas and humorous and intense moments, Ross Friday's passion for the festive season shines through above the myriad other themes. From the setting to the character names this book is a very real reflection on the Christmas season and what it means to us all. So one can't help but be shocked by the juxtaposition to darker themes and moments when they arrive.

In need of far more refinement before hitting bookshelves, Friday's talents are obvious. He juggles the downbeat with the heart-warming with skill and has an obvious flair for prose. Like the film it takes its lead from, this is an overwhelmingly positive book from a talented writer who really only needs a strong editor to guide his vision.


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