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The Sacrifice – Indrajit Garai

sacrificeIn this collection meet:  Guillame, who gives up everything to protect his child; Mathew, who stakes his life to save his home; and, François, who makes the biggest sacrifice to rescue his grandson.

Having previously had to decline  this offering due to a mountain of other books needing their reviews done for their respective deadlines, I am appreciative of Estelle for offering me another opportunity to read and talk about these short stories, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Each of the three stories contained in volume 1 have plenty of themes both on the human and natural side.  The reader will see the price of ‘progress’ and the loss it entails with the destruction of nature – which is neatly countered with the positive effects it has on the characters actions – and the uncertain legacy of what will be left of it for the next generation.

The human consequences on nature run in tandem with the heartache of families struggling; parents aren’t there, money is tight and life grinds away at the soul but there is always hope in each other and what they do have.

It is precisely this humanity that kept me reading, seeing these people going through life, trying to do the right thing.  That’s not to say that the book is preachy in any way, it isn’t, it allows the characters and their circumstances to unfold in an organic way and clearly shows us their thoughts and feelings in a given situation.

Each of the participants are just ordinary folk and that is the beauty of the storytelling,  the reader can instantly connect with them and just go with the story – regardless of setting and circumstance – what they do and who they are doesn’t matter because they are in existing in all their flawed glory.  The titular sacrifice therefore feels more powerful because it is something truly costly to the individual which the reader can appreciate and in terms of seismic impact.  The book excels at showing the ripples made by decisions, whether large or of a more subtle variety. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 30/01/2017 in Fiction

 

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Eye Believe That!

I saw this in the newsagents…and this in no way a filler post until I get around to writing another review.

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Posted by on 27/01/2017 in Journalism

 

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A Dance to the Music of Time: Summer – Anthony Powell

hammertimeAnthony Powell’s brilliant twelve-novel sequence chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, and is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England. It is unrivalled for its scope, its humour and the enormous pleasure it has given to generations.

Volume 2 contains the second three novels in the sequence: At Lady Molly’s; Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant; The Kindly Ones

Having no other blurb would usually be inadequate for the eager reader but in this instance I’m glad of it.  It would take a talented writer to not only quantify the story of all these collected lives but to tease out a discernible thread within the whirl of time and meeting, both chance and planned.

Sometimes a story is not about the end goal but about the experience, the furthering of this particular encounter is a pleasurable one.  I loved the first omnibus and books four to six better it in a lot of ways but I still prefer the overall consistency of the ‘Spring’ books.

A couple of months since reading the last omnibus, which I loved, I was slightly worried I would lose the thread of some of the characters and their convoluted histories but Powell always allows for that and made it easy to recall them through the narrative.  It may have helped that I read the Spring omnibus straight though, rather than taking my time but with a writer such as Powell, it is doubtful the reader will wish to leave long between novels.

Along the walls frescoes tinted in pastel shades, executed with infinite feebleness of design, appealed to heaven knows what nadir of aesthetic degradation.

It was easy to slip back into that world of gossip and dinner parties framed with plenty of references, to art, literature, and music.  This time it felt more world-weary as Narrator Nick Jenkins takes us into further through all these lives and most notably opens up gradually about more himself, rather than being the detached observer he was in the previous volume. There is a sense of time catching up and of a growing maturity. the zest of the young lessening and life taking its toll in myriad ways. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 23/01/2017 in Fiction, Modern Classics

 

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2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide

itsfuntostayattheyeagNature gets to eat its mistakes, but we have to live with ours

Having forgotten about this review after the upheaval of last year’s end, I belatedly bring you this review, after a badly needed editing session.

This latest anthology (and my first foray into the YEAG series) is packed with 24 multifarious stories.  In a universe where anything can happen, the scope will really appeal to children who no doubt already love their science fiction with so much good stuff about in plenty of mediums.

Getting children reading is always rewarding both for themselves and in the wider view a more literate society.  Having heroes their own age, who they can relate to and imagine themselves in such situations will definitely fuel their passion for books and adventure.

The Dreaming Robot Press page states that, Our characters are white, black, asian, latino. Human and robot. Everyone belongs here. Add in people with handicaps as well and this is a truly inclusive mix. I did find the book heavily weighted to female protagonists which makes sense as there is an under representation of both female authors and female protagonists in the genre.  The boy in me would have perhaps wished for a bit more balance but there is enough choice for me out there already and it was refreshing to read about female characters and their escapades for a change.

The variation is pleasing and has plenty of depth with the different styles of writing and setting, there is something to suit all tastes and also a lot of scope here to feed a child’s imagination and to encourage them to write and read more.  The stories also have a social aspect, exploring what it is like to be seen as different, coping with illness as well as displaying determination, loyalty, and all that good stuff too. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 20/01/2017 in Children's Literature, Sci Fi

 

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The Tale of Rickety Hall – Penny Dolan

ricketyOrphaned Jonas Jones is cold and tired, and oh so hungry. And without his little dog Scraps he’d be desperately lonely, too. So when dastardly Megrim the dog catcher and his sidekick Filch decide they’re going to get rid of Scraps, Jonas knows he must do everything he can to stop them.Even if that means going for help at Rickety Hall, the spooky old house on the hill-inside which no one’s ever dared to venture.

Having just finished A Dance to the Music of Time:  Summer – a review of which will be coming soon – I decided a break from anything too heavy was needed and as I want to review more children’s books this year, it made sense to pick something light up.

This short tale, with a good number of illustrations crammed in for good measure is full of good messages for the young ‘uns, whilst also dealing with the cruel side of some people.

Protagonists Jonas and Scraps are likeable enough, not particularly fleshed out, as one isn’t when homeless but Scraps being an animal is always going to be a delight for the reader.  Being aimed at youngsters, Megrim and Filch whilst thoroughly odious are given a touch of the comedic to take the edge off so they aren’t too sinister; which is good as children may have found the animal cruelty a little too much to stomach otherwise,

The story centres on the mystery of Rickety Hall which is a great name even before you can make the connection with why it may so be named.  The mysteries don’t stop there as another mystery is presented soon after to keep the attention of the reader assured until the end. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 17/01/2017 in Children's Literature

 

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Night Delight

Recently it has been a pleasure to retire to bed at about half nine in the evening for some quality reading time.  Stopping to make a hot chocolate which always gets the reading off right, then leaving it to cool off next to my funky touch lamp before picking up whichever book is currently occupying my imagination.

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Stars and the to be reviewed pile.

The beauty of the lamp accompanying the chosen literature is the intimate setting it creates, beyond the book everything is either obscured by the dark or its impact on the peripheral vision lessened so that the small zone of light contains the reader’s only focus on the many adventures to be undertaken.

The accompanying silence as the night wears on – if you are lucky enough to live away from main roads and such – adds a lot of atmosphere, as it did when I picked up Stephen King’s Desperation, and The Stand where 99% of the word’s population has died (not that this appalling tally seems to be noticed as this is all set in America) and the survivors are left to their almost totally silent world.

The night though is versatile, after extensive reading research throughout the years particularly vivid memories of 2001: A Space Odyssey and its three sequels, The Rama series, and Solaris which being Sci-Fi come to mind.  It feels right to read the genre at night as it does horror, like the stories of M.R. James, and Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, which is the only horror book that I have been genuinely creeped out by. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 15/01/2017 in Book Memories, Fiction

 

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Satantango – László Krasznahorkai

YouKnowWhenYou'veBeen...In the darkening embers of a Communist utopia, life in a desolate Hungarian town has come to a virtual standstill. Flies buzz, spiders weave, water drips and animals root desultorily in the barnyard of a collective farm. But when the charismatic Irimias – long-thought dead – returns to the commune, the villagers fall under his spell. The Devil has arrived in their midst.

Irimias will divide and rule: his arrival heralds the beginning of a period of violence and greed for the villagers as he sets about swindling them out of a fortune that might allow them to escape the emptiness and futility of their existence. He soon attains a messianic aura as he plays on the fears of the townsfolk and a series of increasingly brutal events unfold.

After reading this I found out there was a seven hour film of the book which is lauded with critical acclaim but after reading this story, I may have to leave it a few months as it is one of those rare pieces that feels like an experience and not just another good read.

Satantango is a strange, yet thoroughly intriguing book set in a closed world, cut off from civilisation only by the limitations of its characters. For those who like dense prose and stream of consciousness writing – each chapter is one long paragraph – you can’t go far wrong than with this.  It’s a challenge but in the best possible way. as the reader is treated to political and religious allegory, veiled from the communist censors at the time by its subtlety.

Despite being less than 300 pages, I felt like I was putting the work into this one, that’s not to say it was a chore because it wasn’t but what it is, is very slowly paced read layered with meaning.  The translator George Szirtes must have had his work cut out not only capturing the essence of the book but also keeping up with all the looping sentence structure that takes a while to get used to.

Set primarily in a slowly decaying farm, this ruin of the communist dream is a dreary, all but forgotten place of perpetual misery where time has stopped and everything is rotting and anything that is meaningful has been lost under the rubble, this is reflected in the characters themselves.  Even in scenes outside of this small collective, there is a narrow and confined feel to the text, the pressing down of an invisible weight. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 12/01/2017 in Fiction

 

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