Monday, 9 December 2013

Graveside Manner

I think I have become nothing but a blur, as inconsequential as a puff of wind or a damp leaf. I am normally here day in and day out, kneeling or sitting cross legged like an infant or stood upright with my hands behind my back, that’s another one of my favourites. Those that spot me usually leave me alone and I think that’s because most of them are scared of me, the mad man of St Mary’s. But I’m never alone anymore and I have never had so many friends as I have now, it’s just that they are dead.
 They’ve all got used to me coming here and to be honest I think it’s a relief for them because they must get bored with nobody to talk to. Eternity, after all, is a very long time to spend on your tod. Of course not all of them are that welcoming and some of them like old William Hitchen are just miserable old gits and love nothing better than to wallow in their own self-pity. All I ever get out of him are grunts and sighs and the occasional tut tut. I’ve tried to cheer him up plenty of times but he just doesn’t seem to see the point seeing as he’s dead and all that and living in a wooden box six foot under. I do see where he’s coming from though and I guess there’s no point in getting him to try to see the positives, there aren’t that many really.
But that’s why I spend so much time here. Everybody needs somebody to talk to from time to time and I also enjoy their company. I think most of them appreciate my efforts and I also help to keep their gravestones clean, getting rid of dead heads and fast food cartons, that kind of thing.

 In fact I don’t think I’ve ever had so many friends, I was always a bit of a loner and always found it hard to make friends. Social anxiety I think they call it these days, it was a bloody nuisance. But in my day, especially under the circumstances, we didn’t have much choice. All brought together like herds of cattle. Sometimes locking horns and at other times scared witless.
I was telling Betty Scowcroft this morning about how it used to be and she’s a brilliant listener, although she doesn’t say much herself. All I know is she died in childbirth in 1889, in a two up two down affair just down the way. It wasn’t the kind of death anybody should have, lots of screaming, lots of shouting and then silence. A terrifying silence and few moments later the undulating cries of a baby that would never get to see its mother.
Nobody visits her anymore. That’s the saddest thing about being a long time dead, most of your nearest and dearest are also dead. You can’t even begin to imagine how painful it can be to lay there all alone, time fluttering by like a moth without even glancing back over its shoulder. I think Betty enjoys our little chats though and she is opening up to me slowly, even told me that I remind her of her Bertie. I think he was buried over in Harrogate sometime in the thirties. Met a girl after the war and moved down that way, had a little hardware shop until his own death. She doesn’t talk about him much, mainly because she doesn’t know all the ins and outs, just a selection of details whispered over her stone many years ago. And she’s always been a bit deaf, you really have to shout. Poor old bird. It can be very frustrating you know, listening to your loved ones talking over you and not being able to get a word in. After a time it gets so annoying you end up closing your ears but it takes practise to do that.
Thankfully most of them don’t do that to me, unless they are in revere. That’s when they’re not contactable. It happens to all of them from time to time and can last anything from a few days to a number of months. I’m not sure why it happens. I just chalk it off as one of those unexplained spiritual phenomenons. Whether they are off to meet their maker for a little while or having yearly appraisals, I don’t think I’ll ever get to the bottom of it.

John Catterall once spent an entire year in revere and the bugger came out of it one day and said he didn’t even realise he’d gone anywhere. He’s got a filthy mouth on him. I’ve lost count of the number of nights I’ve spent listening to his blue jokes. He must have been a right character when he was top-side and a bit of a ladies man as well by all accounts. It doesn’t go down well with all the residents as you can well imagine, especially when he tells the one about the nun, the prostitute and the errand boy from Tarleton.
Some nights he gets out of hand and I have to intervene and do my best to calm things down. When they all start shouting and bickering it can get ridiculous to say the least. I must admit though I like to egg him on a little bit and tell him my own dirty jokes from time to time, but they are about as funny as a dislocated shoulder. But I usually get the odd giggle and the occasional slow hand clap; I still haven’t worked out how the hell they do that.

Mr and Mrs Sheepshank, over in the far corner by the begonias told me once that things often get pretty tense because of religious and political differences. I like them and always know where to go whenever I feel like having a deep and meaningful conversation. Sometimes we can chunner on for hours all three us, going anywhere in any direction from Arthur Skargill to the conflict in Afghanistan to whether they really should bring out another series of Come Dine With Me. We nearly caused an uproar one day last September when we got on to the subject of sex before marriage. Even a few of the folk in the cremation section were banging on about it for weeks.

Sometimes though I just like to mingle. Perhaps just a simple ‘Hello, how are you doing?’ will suffice and then I’ll move on to the next one. I call it the St Mary’s shuffle. Although not all of them are keen on talking and a few prefer to keep themselves to themselves and I have to respect that. And you also have to be conscious of their individual moods and personalities. I couldn’t tell my dirty jokes, for instance, to Mr Evans in plot number 54 because he used to be a lay preacher and he gets rather tetchy. I think it’s because he feels as if he he’s been short changed by God. After all he was expecting to spend an eternity at the right hand side of Jesus but instead just gets to listen to Veronica Whittle, next door but one, going on about how cold it is and how it won’t stop raining. I must admit it would send me crazy as well. For all pretence and purposes it must be like listening to the constant drone of a dentist’s drill.

Then again there are walkers like me. There aren’t many of us around and most of the others prefer to spend time away from the churchyard but it suits me fine. I get more sense out of my friends here than anybody top-side. I can’t keep up with how fast things are changing anyway. People don’t seem to want to talk to each other these days, they’ve got their heads permanently glued to their mobile phones and most of them have more chance of knowing who has been knocked out of Britain’s Got Talent than actually knowing their next door neighbours name.
I blame the internet. There was none of that in my time. These days most people waste their entire lives playing Candy Crush and poking each other and the way they talk is all gibberish to me. It may as well be Welsh or Gaelic or Narnian for all I can understand.

No I prefer it here in the church yard where the age old tradition of conversation hasn’t been flushed down the bog. I don’t know what they all think of me and I’m not sure what they say behind my back but at least they know I’m here and usually answer me back when I speak to them. Unlike most of the up-top  visitors who stroll in here willy-nilly with handfuls of freesias and carnations, with their heads full of whatever delicacies they are going to have for their tea and the X Factor and Sex.

Yes it’s very true is that. They come in here with their puff pastry faces, walking around all ginger like as if they’re in a bloody library and nine out of ten times they’re thinking about getting their ends away. I think that’s what they call it these days but I could be wrong. They didn’t call it that in my day but there again, we had other things on our minds. The most important one was staying alive, didn’t do me much good in the end though.

I think that’s why I’m glad I’m not down there. I spent enough time in those piss stinking trenches and that would just be a reminder of those bastard days of webbed feet and my poor mates with half their brains hanging out of their heads.

                                   Ally Atherton 2013

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

      Disillusioned by his life Jack sets sail for the Artic where he will work as a wireless operator as part of a five man expedition team. As the night's draw thin and the sun disappears, things start to go bump in the night and people begin to go a little thin on the ground. 


      I absolutely adore this book. Told from the first person perspective we experience life on Gruhuken, where it is perpetual night and where the sea freezes and the ice talks. As ghost stories go this has to be up there with the best. Jeffery Deaver says that it's like Stephen King meets Jack London; and I know what he's saying, it's scary and compelling and a thoroughly good read.

      I can't remember a book that has scared me and hooked me like this for a long time, maybe it was actually Stephen King's 'Bag Of Bones' and this book reminds me of that one. It's well written, well crafted and stays with you. Not bad for a random book that I plucked up at my local library. This has all my favourite ingredients; a fantastic setting, horror, a great story and huskies! Can't beat huskies in a novel! I must read more from Michelle Paver!

      An amazing 5/5.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Need to Know : Writing Fiction

      This is a great little book released by Collins and written by Alan Wall. It is full of helpful advice for any wannabe writer, old or new. It is split into various sections including plotting, characterization and setting and is pretty much a must read.

      It also includes lots of neat writing exercises and is very much a creative writing course within a book. What I also loved was the way it uses lots of published novels as examples when going through each section rather than just talking about the elements of fiction writing.

      I have learned so much from this book and hopefully it will improve my writing and I plan to read more of this kind of thing in the next few months.

      Very helpful  5/5

Monday, 3 June 2013

Lenore Noogies

                                                         By Roman Dirge

I fancied something a little different and couldn't resist grabbing hold of this at my local library.

It's the first time I've read a graphic novel and I happily read it whilst sitting in my back yard with a can of lager and with the Chorley sun shining.(Which doesn't happen very often.) It's a series of silly stories in the surreal world of a cute little dead girl!

Well I couldn't think of a better way of spending a day off and it is hilarious! I kind of fell in love with the cute little dead girl and must catch up with her again at some point. Maybe again with a can of lager and a spot of sun.

If you fancy a laugh, a real laugh and not just a laugh that you get at the expense of acquiring a literary headache ( see the 100 year old man that jumped out of a window and disappeared), then read this! It's not a comic, honest, it's a graphic novel.

Ok it is a comic. 5/5

Book 24 A Kind Man

                                                           By Susan Hill

       Living somewhere in industrial England, this is about one woman's struggle to deal with life, loss and the impending doom of widespread poverty.

      It sounds gloomy but Susan Hill's beautiful prose is spellbounding at times and each page is almost edible as she paints words like not many other writers can. This is the story of Eve and how the joys of childbirth and marriage can crumble and force you to take a different, haunting path.

      I absolutely enjoyed reading this but found the ending left me feeling a little bit short changed and too many questions were left hanging for my liking. Maybe that was Susan't intention but personally I would have preferred a different one.

      I would have given this a 5 if it hadn't been for the ending.

      Wonderful, skilful writing,

      4/5 Must read more from Susan Hill.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

The 100 Year old man who jumped out of the window and disappeared

                                                                By Jonas Jonasson

      Allan Karlsson is 100 years old tommorrow and the old people's home have organised a party for him complete with balloons, lot's of food and even the town mayor! But instead he gets up, jumps out of his window and disappears.

      There's an entire plethora of reviews out there that range from 'Hilarious' to 'Agonising' and maybe that's because humour is a highly personal and selective thing. This is more 'Yes Prime Minister' than 'Black Adder' although it is extremely silly. The story interchanges between the 100 year old Allan and his early and rather extraordinary life, where he meets an assortment of political leaders and managers to influence world history on a grand scale.

      Although I found the book to be amusing in places and probably did learn a bit about world history along the way, it was pretty agonising to read! The convoluted story of how he meets a succession of historical figure just got on my nerves after a while and most of the characters are very much of the wafer thin variety. I certainly didn't find it a page turner and during the course of the week what I really wanted to do was rip the pages out and throw them into something very hot. Maybe the entrance to hell itself.

      But as I said, humour is a very personally and subjective thing and perhaps this would appeal to a more high brow, political satire kind of palate. Maybe a radio four listening, telegraph reading, Downton Abbey watching, Jane Austen reading type of guy. As for me I found myself wanting to throw myself out of my own window, although I don't mind a bit of radio four occasionally, but I'm more of a Black Adder kind of guy.

      Fans of 'Fly Fishing in the Yemen' would probably like this one.



Sunday, 19 May 2013

War Horse

                                                             By Michael Morpurgo

      I seem to have avoided all the hype surrounding War Horse and the subsequent movie and stage play and only bought this for my wife after I was unable to get hold of her latest installment of the Vampire Diaries at our local town centre. She read it first and told me how incredibly sad and good it was and I read it a few weeks later.

      It is sad and it's a lovely little book. As with most childrens fiction it isn't really aimed at me but I still enjoyed it. It is told from the viewpoint of a horse sent to the front line during WW1 and it is a heart warming tale and a brilliant insight into a major event in world history. I think if I had read this as a 10 or 11 year old I would have absolutely loved it and it would have probably stayed with me into adulthood. I'm not 11, I'm 42 but it was a terrific read. Michael Morpugo's wife told him that she thought War Horse was his best book and he replied that he hoped not because he has written 80 more since!

     I think I will certainly make it my mission to find out, even if it takes me a long time. Good book.


Sunday, 12 May 2013

Young Men Shall See by Scott Thompson

     This is a coming to age story told through the eyes of Gus Ambrose, a teenager in River Falls, a small community in Georgia. A tale of love and heartache, excitement and horror, a group of teenagers struggle to make sense of a world where old fashioned attitudes and myths collide with  teenage boredom and a desire to have fun.

      I liked everything about this book. I don't think there's anything I didn't like. I really loved the main characters and the world in which the story is told, I loved the short chapters and I loved the way the story was told slowly and effortlessly without feeling forced in any way. But most of all ( and this is difficult to explain) I liked the whole atmosphere of the book, because some books do have an atmosphere. Some books get to you in all the right places, sometimes you really connect with the characters and it's almost as if you are there in the pages of the book yourself. I suppose that is what I am trying to say. I certainly had that connection with 'Young Men Shall See'.

      As far as debut novels are concerned this is incredibly well written and Scott Thompson certainly knows how to write. And the great thing is that given the opportunity his writing will hopefully continue to grow and blossom and even greater things will come in the future. A part of me thinks that maybe the story could have ended with Chapter 30 without the addition of the final chapter but maybe I'm just nick picking because I really liked this book. You know when you've really enjoyed a book because you just want to read it again and you don't want the story to end.

      A Superb Debut 5/5

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Book 20 Night Of the Humans

                                                         By David Llewellyn

        Night of the Humans is part of BBC Book's collection of novels based around the TV Series and features the 11th Doctor and Amy. Landing on a junkyard in space they find themselves caught in between a battle between two alien societies, the Sittuum and a futuristic but savage version of Humans. A devastating comet is on it's way to cause imminent destruction and they face a race against time to save themselves and everybody else.

      This is a fun and quick read and I found it much more readable than my previous encounter with BBC Doctor Who books. I really liked the alien world of the Gyre and without being overly convoluted or boring the plot kept my interest and felt like a throwback to the classic series that I gew up with. There are lots of cool aliens and a good balance of action and humour that will probably satisfy many a Whovian. Lots of good characters abound and I particularly liked Dirk Slipstream who (in my mind at least) was definitely Ace Rimmer from Red Dwarf!

      I grew up with the old Target books and although as an old git I don't get as excited (as I used to) with reading this kind of thing, it was an average entertaining read. A good beginning, a good middle and a decent ending. What more could you want?



Sunday, 28 April 2013

Book 19 Lulu looks For Love

                                                          By Katie Pfeiffer

                        Well it has always been my intention to read all kinds of books for my 52 book challenge and for review purposes so it was about time I read a childrens picture book. I am a 42 year old bald bloke so it's obvious that this book isn't aimed at me. 


      I don't know much about Katie but this little book is colourful and funny and I'm sure she will have a great future if she wants to continue to combine her art with childrens fiction. I'm not sure about the inclusion of a spirit guide type character in a story for young children, that is my only small niggle.This appears to have been written a few years ago now and I don't know if she has written anything else but hopefully she will go on to develop herself in these two areas and it will be interesting to keep an eye on her. Whether writing or Art or both becomes her chosen area, I wish her well, wherever her future carries her.

The War of the Worlds

                                                                 H.G Wells


            'The Chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one they said.'

      When I was growing up my sister had the War of the Worlds Album and I remember listening to it, maybe through my bedroom wall, and I remember that line well. I don't know if I ever listened to the album all the way through and I don't even know how close it was to the actual book.

      The War of the Worlds was definitely well ahead of it's time, it is imaginative and thought provoking. I was expecting it to be like a bad Sci Fi B-Movie but it was totally the opposite. There are probably more dead bodies in this than any modern book I have ever read and I'm sure it must have raised a few eyebrows at the time.

      However saying all that it did take me a while to get into the story, and perhaps because I don't know anything about London or it's nearby areas I did find it quite difficult to picture any of the locations in the book. And for me the book only came alive in the final third. The ending is excellent though and kind of makes the whole thing come together. It kept my interest (just about) all the way through and it is well worthy of 4 stars out of 5, but not the most exciting thing I have ever read. Mainly due to the difficulty in picturing in my head any of the settings and London landmarks. That made it is tad difficult.

      Maybe I should take that trip to London like I've been meaning to.


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

                                                   By Stieg Larsson

      Evil Shall

                           With Evil

                                               Be Expelled

      Henrik Vanger has spent decades trying to find out what happened to his niece Harriet who disappeared into thin air in 1966, finally in one last desperate attempt he enlists the help of Mikael Blomkvist, disgraced journalist.

       Blomkvist moves to sleepy Hedeby Island and soon realises that he is not just the hunter but possibly the hunted.

      I delayed reading this until now because of all the hype it generated along with the motion picture, I don't like to read a book when everybody is raving about it because there's always a danger that it won't live up to the hype. At 542 pages this is quite a big chunk of a book and I have since read a mixed bag of reviews. Some people think it's over complicated and convoluted and obsessed with mundane details. Yes, maybe it isn't the easiest book to read but that's what I love about it. It's a thinking man's novel, it's in many ways an unconventional thriller. I like the fact that it makes your brain work a little harder, I like the fact that the Author goes into lots of small details, I like the fact that I needed two bookmarks instead of one!

      When I first started reading I admit I was a tad weary because I was straight away hit with lots of maps and a complicated family tree on the first few pages. Hence why I needed the multiple bookmarks so that I could keep referring back to them! 

      But there's lots to love in this novel. I love the location, a fictional island off the coast of Sweden, I love the characters and I love the general atmosphere of the story. Because it's hard to describe but some books do have an atmosphere and the atmosphere of 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' gets under your skin in a good way. 

      Without wanting to give away the ending, the main story ends with about 90 pages to spare and then we have what can only be described as an 'add on' or a 'wrap up' where all the loose ends are wrapped up. This isn't liked by everyone who has read the book but I kind of liked it, even though it is unconventional. Because this whole novel is unconventional, but in a great way.

       Sadly Stieg Larsson never lived long enough to see his books in print and because I don't speak Swedish I won't ever know how much this translation by Reg Keeland differs from the originally penned story. So we have to give some credit to Reg for bringing 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' to the public's attention. Now I just have to watch the movie and read the rest of the books in the Millenium Trilogy. I'm not a big thriller fan but this one is good.

       Fantastic 5/5

Monday, 8 April 2013

Book 16 All In The Mind

                                                         By Jenny Twist



      The war is over and as the train pulls into the station he catches a glimpse of the most beautiful woman he's ever seen. As he sets foot on the platform he knows he has to have her and needs her in his life. She is a nurse and is helping the injured soldiers onto stretchers to take them to the hospital.

       Her name is Tilly and she is in love. Invited down to his parents home she is terrified and excited in equal measure. Her life is about to change completely, she has no clothes and no money but she has Johnny. He is all she needs.

      Tilly wakes up in a strange room, she is scared, the room is unfamiliar and there is something missing.  She is old and He isn't there. 

What is happening?


       I really enjoyed the beginning of this one, I loved the atmosphere of war time England and the excitement of first love. It is romantic and I found myself wanting to journey more into this time and place.

      Then the story moves on and our main character finds herself in the present day in a nursing home, an old woman who has alzheimer's. Unknown to her she has been part of a scientific experiment and she is getting better and younger!

      To be honest I found myself wanting to remain in the past, to find out what happened when Tilly started a new life with her lover. But then the story changes and we are catapulted into the future and for me the plot didn't quite gel. The twist in the story just didn't work for me and it kind of lost its way towards the end when it changed yet again. I really wanted to love this book because I received a free copy for review purposes but I have to be honest and true to myself. The idea is a great one and I loved the two main characters, Tilly and Johnny, but I found myself wishing Tilly had stayed in wartime England instead of waking up many years later in a nursing home bed. Jenny Twist has a great imagination and lots of potential but for me this one didn't quite work.  Maybe it's just me because 'All In The Mind' has got some great reviews, I'm really sorry I couldn't follow suite.

     I do think there is more to come from this Author, maybe her writing will mature and we will see the best of her in the future. I read another of her books 'Away With The Fairies' earlier on in the year and I loved it. I would love to see her write something along similar lines or maybe a historical romance.









Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Stop Negative Thinking

                           How to stop worrying, Relieve stress 

                                                           and become a Happy person again 
                                                                              By Doc Orman M.D

       I have tried all kinds of self help books over the years and some are better than others and my first reaction when I started to read this was ' It's very short!'

      Yes, it is short and I was initially wondering where it was leading me or whether it was leading me down a very strange and weed infiltrated path. But guess what? It's really good! A few of the ideas it contains are covered in other self help books but on the whole it has a fresh and simple perspective on the problem of dealing with negative thoughts. There's not too much information, you won't give yourself a headache reading this, but what you'll get are a series of carefully chosen and helpful ways to become a more positive and stress free person.

      I know I found it helpful and will keep it handy. Getting rid of negative thoughts isn't an overnight battle but it's a battle that books like this can help with, a lot.

      Try it and see for yourself.



Book 14 Ten Sexy Stories

                                                    By Various Authors.

      When I started this blog, my intention was to read as many types of books as possible and it seems I may have neglected erotic fiction even though I did read one romantic/erotic book last year. When I came across this, whilst perusing the 100 free best selling books on Amazon, I thought it was a good opportunity to redress the balance. It contains 10 short erotic stories from different erotically named Authors! To be quite honest I don't  know a lot about the world of erotic fiction but I have a nagging suspicious that some of the stories are written by blokes and maybe some are written by the same Author. But what do I know, I'm a bloke and consequently I don't think I am the intended reader of this one.

      I didn't find any of the stories the least bit erotic in nature. As can be expected none of them are a work of literary genius but more importantly all of the stories lacked any exciting or enticing sensual build up. There was something rather cut and pasted about them and every one of them could have been lifted from a seventies porn magazine. Rather than being erotic each story was just one explicit sex scene to another and even though I am a red blooded male, they didn't do anything for me. And I've been married for 10 years!

      I haven't given up on erotic fiction but maybe I will have to chose my next one more carefully. The most erotic thing about this book is the front cover.


If you need me, I'll be in Space. (Flash Fiction)

This isn't as cool as it sounds as I'm currently stuck in orbit some place between my big toe and my sock. It's an awkward position to be in to be honest and it smells bloody awful. Quite what I was doing to find myself in this predicament is probably a question that is now floating through the inner workings of your brain.

You see I'm a bit of a science geek and I'm always coming up with new inventions inside my bedroom here in the TransPlutonian Space Station. It isn't much of a room and I don't have a great view through my port hole but they have allowed me to carry on with my little experiments. Well up until now that is. I was working on a major breakthrough in sub atomical travel and it's kind of gone wrong. Hence why I find myself in this rather precarious situation.

I can't move and it's a bit of a squeeze in here and I really wish I'd paid a bit more attention the last time I scrubbed my feet. On a positive note I have become the first person in the history of mankind to travel sub atomically but sadly I appear to be stuck. No doubt tomorrow they will find my lifeless body and will assume I am dead and then I will find myself being unceremoniously jettisoned into the cosmos. I never was one for funerals, especially my own.

I don't know if I'll manage to survive on some sub atomical level or if anybody will ever find me hanging onto my big toe for dear life but it really stinks in here.

Copyright Ally Atherton 2012

Space, The Final Frontier (Flash Fiction).

Space, The Final Frontier

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Paradise Road

By Stephen O'Donnell. Ringwood Publishing.

This is the debut novel by up and coming Glasgow Author Stephen O'Donnell and follows the lives of Kevin McGarry and several other football fans during the nineties and beyond, warts and all, the good, the bad and the ugly. Kevin has a very promising footballing career ahead of him until injury forces him to try and navigate a new direction in life, a life consisting of alcohol, girls, friendships and his beloved Celtic. It is a story of changes, a story of growing up within a culture of sectarianism, a story of broken dreams, laughter and cultural adversity.

As a self confessed bookaholic and football fan this book ticked a lot of boxes for me before I had even turned the first page. This is in many ways an unconventional book, you don't necessarily have any major blockbusting plot to grab hold of, the point of view changes from one character to another several times (and it isn't always immediately obvious who is speaking or thinking) but for me this unconventional style was one of its strengths. Lets not mess around here, Stephen O'Donnell can really write, Paradise Road is fresh and written with an efficacious combination of wit, realism and social commentary.

Like the main character I have Irish blood in me and am maybe quarter Irish (or maybe a fifth Irish) but unlike Kevin McGarry my family settled in the North West of England and I am a Wigan Athletic fan and not a Celtic fan. But as a football fan I loved how the story transported me onto a bus full of crazy Celtic supporters and onto the terraces of Celtic Park and into a collection of dodgy Scottish pubs! This is a must for any book loving football fans, not only is it hilariously entertaining, it is also thought provoking and touching. Maybe I should get along to Celtic Park at some point and I really wish Scottish football would get it's act together.

5/5 A promising debut novel.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Book 12 - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

By J.K Rowling

Harry Potter is on his way to his third year at Hogwarts, his Aunt Marge has been left floating to the ceiling like a balloon and a dangerous murderer has just escaped from a high security prison and is on his way to find him. Add to this mixture a flying Half Horse-Half Eagle,a wild dog that foretells impending death and a collection of creepy prison guards that feed off negative thoughts and we have the third fun packed Harry Potter book.

I have read a Harry Potter book every year now that I have been doing my 52 book reading challenge and I absolutely loved this one! The first two books were fun to read but this one is so much better, the plot just seems much tighter and is cleverly constructed. The great thing about these books is that they are fun for all ages including this 42 year old bald bloke.

There are lots of twists and turns and hints and clues and the ending was just right. Anyone that is interested in writing children's books could learn alot from J.K Rowling, me included. I want to go back in time and become her!


I still haven't seen any of the films and I would rather read the books first.

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Great Escape ( Devotional 1)

‘Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” Acts 5 (17-20)

How many of us have found ourselves locked inside our own personal jail cells? Maybe you find are struggling to find the money to pay your mortgage, your rent, your electricity or gas bills? Maybe you have found yourself in some other seemingly inescapable Cul De Sac of life and you feel as if you are banging your head against the proverbial brick wall. Paul teaches us that God doesn’t do brick walls. He can remove bricks, one by one, he can open doors that seem securely locked. Have you asked him to unlock your doors? But then something even more incredible happened in the story of the apostle’s escape.

‘But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported. “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no-one inside.” ‘ Acts 5 (22-23)

The guards were standing at the doors! So not only did the Angel of the Lord open the locked jail cell to let the apostles out, he did it without the guards even noticing, in front of their noses! Now how amazing is that? Jesus is there for us, to plot our great escape. We don’t need to dig any secret tunnels, we don’t need to get down on our hands and knees or squeeze ourselves through the floorboards.

I also posted this to 'Create With Joy'. Please take a peek by using the link above and maybe take part in 'Inspire me Monday'.A wonderful blog.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

In Christ We Are Blameless

By Diana Medlin

This is my first Christian 'religious' book of the year and I think I came across it via a kindle bot that I follow on twitter. It really focusses on redemption and makes an argument that we don't have to ask Jesus for Forgiveness because he already forgave us on the cross. To be honest it's a something that I have never quite twigged and all the time I have been a Christian (on and off over the years) I have had it in my mind that I have to ask Jesus to all forgive my sins. But the main theme of 'In Christ we are Blameless' is that all our sins are forgiven on the cross and that it is important to confess our sins so that we can move closer to God but not to ask him to forgive our sins. It is a concept that may suprprise or even outrage a few Christians and to be honest I wasn't happy at first.But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If you ask Jesus to forgive your sins all the time it's like you are saying ' Hey Jesus, I don't believe you died for our sins at all!'.

Interesting stuff. The last few pages were full of bible verses aimed at particular areas of life. I'd recommend this book to any Christian that wants a closer understanding of redemption. 4/5

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The Sense Of An Ending

By Julian Barnes

'A shiny inner wrist, steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it, gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house. A river rushing nonsensically upstream.......'

This is how the book begins as a man reflects on his past and how each event is a mere memory, I guess this book is about memory. Or how sometimes a memory is as delicate and as many faceted as a polished sapphire.

I remember this being the book that won the Man Booker prize a few years ago and curiosity has always kept it at the back of my mind as a possible read. This is my first Man Booker prize winning book and so it came highly recommended from the higher echelons of the british literary scene! I didn't know what to expect, probably some high brow , radio four, Art Show, literary work full of long complicated words and ancient Greek and Shakespearean references. Not to mention the fact that because it had won Britains highest literary 'pat on the back' I was worried that the full weight of expectation wasn't going to bear fruit. I was more than pleasantly surprised.

For me this is the perfect 'Literary Fiction' book, a short but intriguing, well crafted story. Perhaps some lovers of crime fiction or the fantasy genre or the latest best selling thriller novel wouldn't 'get this' because there aren't any murderers on the loose, no ticking bombs hidden underneath a New York car park, no hints or even a suggestion of a body hidden in a basement. Just a well written story. That's all it is. A good beginning, middle and an end, and a superb ending as far as I am concerned!

I usually like a book to be original and imaginative and to be dotted with flowery and colourful imagery and description but 'A Sense of an Ending' doesn't come anywhere close. It doesn't need any of that. Although it somehow still manages to leave a trail of images that stay with you throughout the book. I like Julian Barne's writing style, it is thought provoking and also humerous and he kept my interest all the way. Towards the end of the book I was beginning to think that the story was going to fizzle out but instead it actually did the opposite, whatever the opposite of 'fizzling out' is! If you can think of a suitable word or a better way of putting it, please put your answers on a post card.....and send to or just yell rather loudly if you happen to be anywhere near Chorley in Lancashire or Preston Royal Hospital during the week!

So in the end I was wrong about the Greek and the Shakespearean references although there were lots of long words on every page that you probably only use on a regular basis if you read the Financial times, are a regular listener to Radio 4 or got educated at Oxford.

This is one of those books that stays with you and the ending will get you thinking until your heads hurts if you want to. I want to but that's because I'm like that.


Thursday, 7 March 2013

Book 9 The Night Circus

By Erin Morgenstern

You're sitting on the branches of an oak tree and suddenly a circus appears in what was once an empty field. An illusionist turns a book into a raven, a young girl has her fingers split open and then puts them back together, you enter a tent where paper animals stick out their tongues and roar. Please don't adjust your imagination, you have just entered the Circus of Dreams, 'Le Cirque des Reves'.

I don't think I've ever read a book that has left me with so many conflicting thoughts and after reading some of the reviews it seems I am not the only one. On the one hand this literary fiction/ fantasy book is incredible. It is original, imaginative, beautifilly written and a feast of colour, sound and olfactory delights. You can taste the circus. You are transported on a journey through each tent like a child in his pyjamas at night, Erin Morgenstern creates something special and unforgettable here. I read the kindle version and lost out on a wonderful front cover but each page was colourful enough to make this a remarkable read.

However 'The Night Circus' isn't for everybody and my problem with it lies solely in the plot! For me I found it a little bit too convoluted, it's almost as if the author is trying to be too clever for her own good.The ending,in particular, is a bit of a headache and pretty over the top for my liking. Maybe it doesn't help because the fantasy genre isn't really my cup of horlicks but overall the plot didn't quite work for me and the resolution had me scratching my head a little! But I can't give this book anything less than 4 stars because at the end of the day it is amazingly well written and a rollercoaster ride of imagination for the senses. Try it and see what you think.

There are so many characters in this book, it's ridiculous! A totally different kind of a read, it's like a jigsaw puzzle that slowly comes together as you read further.For me it just felt like there was a piece missing at the end. 4/5

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Northanger Abbey

By Jane Austen. (Penguin Red Classics)

Young and impressionable, Catherine Morland loves books and dreams of adventure, romance and hidden passages. A chance meeting with a charming and attractive stranger in Bath, England, sparks an adventure of her own, but real life isn't as straight forward as the plot in a story book.
This is my third encounter with Jane Austen but probably my favourite so far, although 'Emma' runs a close second fiddle or maybe I enjoyed them as much as each other. When I first read 'Pride and Prejudice' I actually wondered what on Earth had hit me and I found it difficult to get my brain around such an old fashioned and convoluted way of writing but perhaps I am finally getting to understand Austen a little bit more. Northanger Abbey is much much accessible, it is romantic and the perfect escapist novel. How better to get your mind off work problems and financial problems but to find yourself riding onboard a horse and carriage in a quaint old English Parish! This novel is gentle and amusing in a subtle way and a thoroughly relaxing read. However the ending is insanely abrupt to say the least and everything is wrapped up way too quickly! Apparently this was one of the first books that Jane Austen wrote but was only published after her death, so maybe that has something to do with it. Would she have agreed to publication without a bit more editing? It's almost as if the last six pages were written by a different author.

Enjoyed. 4/5

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Harvest by Michael Wallace

My latest read was a collection of twisty horror stories by Michael Wallace. All of the eight stories are highly original and imaginative and I can promise you that you won't have read anything even remotely similar before! Although each of the stories were fun to read, the stand out story has to be the wonderful 'A Dog's Night' which in my opinion is the perfect short story if you like something fun and imaginative. My second favourite was the fantastically entitled ' Of ghosts, hell and postmortem consciousness' which surely has to win an award just for the title alone! These were my favourites in this collection of supernatural tales and the rest were maybe a little bit harder to digest but still worth a read. I particularly liked the way Michael weaves a little bit of historical fiction into the mix to add to the raw imagination.

I will have to keep an eye out for some of Michael Wallace's novels.


Monday, 18 February 2013

Book 6 - Play to Kill by P.J Tracy

The body of a man dressed as a bride is fished out of the Mississippi and as more bodies are found videos are posted online to coincide with each grizzly murder. Two cops, a federal agent and a group of computer geniuses set about finding the culprits before it's too late.

Unfortunately for me it was too late to change my mind about reading this book as I plodded along painstakingly towards the end. Apparently 'Play to Kill' is part of a series to feature the same characters so maybe that didn't help and perhaps it would have been better if I had read the others first. Also I have to say that cop thrillers are not my thing and this definitely wasn't my favourite book of the year so far! The story is unoriginal, the characters are pretty one dimensional cardboard cut outs and the plot went from the ridiculous to the sublime and was disjointed to the point that I struggled to finish this. I think my problem with books like this is that they are pretty much the same plot regurgitated over and over again. I think I have read this story a million times and seen it on TV even more times.P.J Tracy have a bit of a following and a bit of a reputation though so maybe this book was just a blip. On a positive note this book was easy to read and contained some nice bits of humour but I lost my sense of humour by the time I read page 325.


Saturday, 9 February 2013

Book 5 - Hobson's Choice by Harold Brighouse

I only read this book because my son is studying it at high school and I thought it would be an interesting quicky to boost my 52 book challenge. So I borrowed it from him and gave it a go. It is unbelievable how my own family don't understand my obsession and love of reading. My wife was asking 'Why are you reading that?' And my son was asking 'Why are you reading that book, it's a school book?' How many times do I have to say I a writer and as a writer I want to and need to read as many different genres as humanly possible! Oh well enough of my moaning, what about the book?

I haven't read that many plays over the years and this is my first of the year. It is an old play and was first presented on stage in 1916 at the Apollo Theatre in London. Set in my own native north west it focuses on a cobbler who treats his three daughters and his own workers pretty grimly and spends far too much time at his local pub. However he receives a dose of his own medicine when his daughters turn against him and he has to fight to retain his position as head of the family!

I actually feel for the main character because I work in a female dominated profession and I know what it is like to feel the wrath of dominant co workers! But as for the play itself it didn't exactly rock my world. Maybe it just isn't my cup of tea but I found it mildly amusing and average at best. It wasn't exactly a laugh a minute and it wasn't a page turner by any means. But maybe I should read more plays and perhaps visit my local theatre more often.


Friday, 8 February 2013

Book 4 - The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

This, my fourth book in this year's challenge, has been on my 'to be read' pile for a while and I finally got the opportunity to read it. It tells the harrowing tale of a future gone wrong, a dystopian world where the stuff of nightmares becomes a terrifying reality. The story centres around a woman who is imprisoned inside a high security world where there are armed check points at every corner, where it is illegal to write or speak and where women are used as baby making vessels and moved around like human cattle. It doesn't sound a barrel of laughs and that's because it isn't and it isn't meant to be either. With echoes of cold war communism and religious fanaticism, The Handmaid's Tale is a bleak and uncompromising look at what would happen if the human race fell down a cesspool of it's own engineering.

Although this book is dark and disturbing it is brilliantly and beautifully written and Margaret Atwood creates a stunningly real world that I well and truly believed in. Each page is filled with unbelievably good prose and try as I could I could not think of one good reason why I shouldn't give this book a 5/5.