Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Wombling in Colchester Dec 2012

What's to be found? 17th December 2012
1 hat
1 necklace
1 car park ticket

The Patchwork Marriage - Jane Green

Several reviews gave the impression that this one was more than women's fiction and headed towards the clever “what if” of Jodi Picoult. For me it didn't make it. A step family and the dynamics with a father devoted to his daughter and a stepmother trying hard to create a new family. Unlikely situations and reckless teen behaviour abound with a definite lack of presence from the actual mother-disappointing.
Would I buy another? No, I'd trust my instincts
Publisher – Penguin Books Ltd

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Lighthouse - Alison Moore

On the Man Booker list which usually means I won't like it. Another one I heard of via twitter.
This is the story of the oddest character I have come across in a long time. Socially dysfunctional and brilliantly described it tells of the collapse of a relationship and the absolute unknown of the future. Given freedom it's surprising how many options there are. The lead character heads off to Germany and once there stays in the lighthouse of the title “Helle Haus”, a local inn. On meeting the landlady and her possessive, aggressive husband he is clearly unable to begin to see, let alone understand the undercurrents between the couple. The book flips between watching the lead character on his journey and the couple in their hotel. As he travels on and makes more and more bizarre decisions we are given glimpses into their relationship progressing rapidly downhill. The husband has great capacity for creating imagined scenarios but he is given cause to exaggerate by his wife.
Brilliantly written there is an element of finishing the story in your head as you reach the ending. Worthy of it's place and the list and well worth the cover price for a thin read.
Would I buy another by the same author? Yes
Publisher - Salt Publishing

The Library Book - Various

With selections from various authors including Stephen Fry, Zadie Smith , Alan Bennett and Lionel Shriver this is must read, dip in and out of kind of book that anybody brought up reading will recognise themselves in at least once. Ranging between the topical with library closures and the reminiscent there's something for everyone.
All royalties go to the Reading Agency's literary programme.
A good incentive to borrow as well as to buy.
Publisher - Profile Books Ltd

Blue Monday - Nicci French

Psychotherapist Frieda Klein is introduced in the first of a series with a client who is confused by his dreams, a child abducted 22 years ago and a recent child abduction in a book that has the makings of a tense thriller.
Working alongside the police although at times randomly and worryingly independently Frieda seems to have hit the lucky intuition branch on the way down. Taking a long 100 pages to really get started the book then races away with an incredible amount of fortuitous circumstances and a particularly useless policeman as the token officialdom. It's not hard to guess some of it but there is a final twist-a completely unresolved final twist.
A good read but seems a bit of a lazy story. Almost as though it's part of a production line of books.
Would I read another? Possibly an earlier one that established the name and created the popularity. Not in a rush to read the next Frieda Klein.
Publisher - Penguin Books Ltd

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Virgin Cure - Ami McKay

Much blogged the history behind this one appealed. When it arrived it wasn't as academic looking as I had thought it would be.
Based in 1870's New York tenements the lead character is 11 year old Moth. The only child of a single mother who makes any occasional cent any way she can Moth is able to read but writing is not even an ambition. Around her she sees girls taken for the virgin cure by men who believed that a virgin would cure them of syphilis. She's as envious of the local girls with smart clothing living in the local brothel as she is of those selling flowers and tries very hard to stay out of the hospital established to help children like her since they don't receive any money there. The reader sees Moth sold by her mother to a woman she believes to be high born and the unhappy consequences prior to her “rescue” by a local prostitute. From there on the book focuses on the workings of the brothel and the hopes and despairs of he working girls.
Overall this was not my style of book at all- reminiscent of Catherine Cookson with some sex thrown in, albeit in a historical context. I think I'd rather read the biography of the women who set up the hospital for the fallen waifs.
Would I read another one? No
Publisher - Orion Books Ltd

Ice Trap - Kitty Sewell

This book came to me via bookcrossing with the comment “It's an ok read”
Yawn. I gave up at about page 80 when still nothing had happened. A quick look at amazon reviews as I do when a book defeats me showed nothing there to convince me that I had missed anything unpredictable. And yet reviews on Hive seem to think it's quite good.

The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey

Is it or isn't it a fairy tale? I spent the first half of the book wondering. I also spent a fair amount of time soaking up the atmosphere and setting of the book and likening it to Night Circus without the fantasy aspect.

The harsh cold and hardship of self sufficiency along with the sadness of the parents is brilliantly described, you find yourself wondering what the same diet every day for an entire winter would be like. The two mothers are so different and yet both so real, one blustery and one almost naïve and withdrawn. The sadness of a barren woman and the patience of her husband despite his own loss take the book to a different level. The hardest person to relate to for me is the 'snow child' but it feels as though that's the way it should be.

Overall an ambitious book that achieves it's aim.

Would I buy another? Yes

We bought a zoo - Benjamin Mee

Since I was at Dartmoor Zoo and this is one of a very few adult books available for sale. But they have hundreds of this book! A shame because at a venue like this I would usually spend at least £20 on non-fiction books.

Since becoming a film it's been pretty well known that Benjamin Mee and his family took a wild leap in the dark to purchase a run down zoo. Partway through the purchase of the zoo Benjamin and his wife discovered that she had a terminal illness. Although this is a part of the period of time covered in the book it does not overpower it at all.

Different tales of the animals, their temperaments and their escapes make this a quick read for a journey. The learning process as Benjamin came to grips with the scale of the enterprise adds to the appeal of the book. A light entertainment book. Well done to the Mee family, the zoo is great and one of the favourites was the black cat!

Would I buy another? Probably not, been there, done that

Freeman - Leonard Potts Jr

Came to me via a Twitter recommendation.

The story of a slave just at the point of liberation and the differing attitudes of north and south America.

Some of the most fascinating aspects were the people's confusion over their actual status now that they weren't slaves any more. What did they do? Some had the way of life so ingrained that it was now impossible to remember freedom, some had never had freedom, some now had the freedom to lose their minds.

Add in to the story a white woman with enough money and determination to do good by providing a school for coloureds and a couple separated by slavery and you have a well written, thought provoking tale from someone little known in the UK.

Would I buy another? Probably not, not because of the author but because his other titles don't appeal.

Rider- Several months after I finished reading this book a circumstance in the street gave me cause to remember a paragraph from the book. Sign of a good book.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Criminal Karin Slaughter

From the doyenne of crime fiction comes the latest in the Will Trent series. This has got to be the soap opera series of crime fiction. Lots of people from malfunctioning backgrounds and lots of interchangeable relationships.
Great characters in the series include Will who has dyslexia, carefully hidden, his wife who is the product of the US "care" system and their colleagues and families. With a fair proportion of the book set in the 1970's it's also great for setting the scene, giving examples of socioeconomic issues of the time.
This is the one that tells the background of the mothers in the series. It's a great read and still leaves it open for the characters to continue- good news for us.
Here Will revisits the past uncovering secrets he couldn't even have imagined while trying to solve a crime and we get to learn more about his mentor through his police career as well as his wife and family.
Carefully interweaving the characters the story builds to a climax with surpises all around and a great one liner ending.

The acknowledgements are also worth a read, maybe a day later to enjoy the end of the story. Here is an author who cares enough about the library systems both in the US and UK to put her money where her mouth is. Long may she reign.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend Matthew Green

With trepidation I picked this one up. It could so easily have failed as a concept. It also had a byline from Jodi Picoult on the front who has, imho, had her style overcopied badly. Published in the UK by Sphere it's a largish print easy read.

Written from the perspective of the imaginary friend we get to meet Max, the real person who created the friend. One of the novelties of the book is the description of the imaginary friends, what would yours look like? Would you remember to put eyebrows on your imagery?

Despite the above this also runs into the crime thriller category with the disappearance of a child taking centre stage. Is it possible for an imaginary friend to manage to make others aware of his knowledge?

Although this is an unlikely book it's also one that has the capacity to allow you to be part of this world as you read. It romps along neatly employing all kinds of friends along the way with a fair bit of angst thrown in.

The decider-would I read another book by this author? Yes

If you would like to read the book next tweet me @nneerraakk and it's yours

Alif the Unseen G Willow Wilson

Published by Corvus Books in the UK this is a magical mystery book with wow factor.

Alif the Unseen is a computer hacker working for anyone who doesn't work for the government enabling freedom of speech. He's also quite nifty as a programmer.

Because of the programming I found it quite handy that I understood the bulk of the terminology surrounding the computing side of the story. However this book is much more than this taking us on a rollercoaster ride through an alternate world- think Never Ending Story meets Harry Potter meets Indiana Jones. Got it?

With unusual beings, unusual skills and a love story or two thrown into the mix this one provides something for just about everyone. Suitable for adults and teenagers alike the descriptive skills are excellent when dealing with the parallel world. Personally I loved the dry humour of the religious leader :)

As well as the entertainment of the book there's an element of "this is what it's really like under censorship and for women" running through it, illustrating choice as being freedom to choose burqah or not.

Well worth a read even if it doesn't sound like your usual type of read.

The decider- would I read another book by this author? Yes

If you want to read this one next, tweet me @nneerraakk

The Registrars Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages Sophie Hardach

Published by Simon and Schuster this is another from my wishlist following a review or six. It's also been languishing on the shelf for a while- so long that I ended up with the hardback and the paperback. More money for a struggling author.....

Starting brutally with a refugee's experience of crossing into Europe this has a very powerful scene that comes along beside you and hits hard across your consciousness as you read, and then backtrack and make sure that you read that right. You did.

Following arrival in Europe the refugee has to somehow remain and the way to do that is to get married to someone with a passport. This is not achieved by going to a local nightclub and being suitably sultry and handsome and therefore an irresistible proposition for the local population. Here the marriage is loosely "arranged".

The novel then tells the stories of both the husband and wife, crossing borders on occasion, as they move away from each other and take entirely different life paths. One becoming a registrar and the other a part time cycle shop assistant.

This is not a heavy book to read, nor is it chick lit. It tells the effect of the marriage on both parties, and the importance attached to it by them. Overall it's an enjoyable afternoon or two of reading and a good debut. If the author thinks as diversely as this each time she writes we will be in for a treat.

The decider- would I buy another book by this author? Yes

If you would like to read it next tweet me @nneerraakk and it's yours!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Testament of Jessie Lamb Jane Rogers

From the latest clutch of dystopian novels comes The Testament of Jessie Lamb published by Sandstone Press.

Several reviews prompted me to buy the book, including one which mentioned the possibility of a YA version as well as adult. I'm pretty sure I got the adult version.
Written in the first person voice the book tells the tale of a young girl growing up in a future where all women die when pregnant. Usually this means death for the baby as well. A doctor/scientist has started a new programme whereby the babies are delivered at a cost to the mother's life before the illness takes hold. The lead character in the book decides that this is an option she would like to take to ensure the life of a baby- a decision made when she is not yet pregnant or even adult.
The book enters the realm of political dissent with various groups springing up in protest against leadership doctrine and in fear of the world they now inhabit,one of which the teenager joins. Alongside her family's concerns about her future there are a whole lot of different strands running through this book.
Overall, to me, it seemed quite a disjointed book with the teenage voice not quite ringing true. Some authors manage to give voice to a much younger person successfully, this one rang as an adult playing a teenager.
Altogther the book made itself a struggle for me to totally enjoy because of this.
That said it has won the Arthur C Clarke 2012 award and was long listed for the Man Booker in 2011.
As is common prize winners and me didn't mix.
The decider- would I buy another book by this author? I'm afraid not.

If you would like to read it next tweet me on @nneerraakk First person to tweet gets it posted to them.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Painter of Silence Georgina Harding
An Orange short listed book of 2012. This one is written by an author I had heard of but not read and was recommended by my local bookseller at Red Lion Books
Usually I shy away from books which may or may not get awards so this was a step outside my comfort zone.

Based in Romania in the 1950's it tells the story of a deaf and mute man's life through his attempts to interact with those around him, be they those who have known him for his entire life of those who have recently met him following the war.

With his skills as an artist he attempts to portray the major incidents of his personal life throughout the war, in the field and at his home.

It takes concentration, mainly because of the need to imagine a lack of words. Once you get as far as the shift involved to achieve this it's a magical book for it's pure skill. I'm not even an artist so the drawings had to be pictured as well.

The emotions of the lead character as frustration in some periods set in, the lack of understanding of the person he was trying to explain to, even this is worked in without words or even necessarily rage.

The subtleties of the restraint shown when the soldiers came to stay at his house and the shame evinced by one of the soldiers after a wordless interaction is genuinely moving.

A difficult read, but a worthwhile one.

The decider- would I buy another book by this author? Yes if there is diverse subject matter

This now becomes a bookcrossing book, if you'd like it next simply tweet me on twitter @nneerraakk first one to tweet gets the book

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Kills Linda Fairstein

My first outing with Linda Fairstein despite the impressively long list of titles published.
The draw was the fact that she is/was a highly succesful prosecutor in the US specialising in sex crimes.
I'm a fan of a decent court thriller and decided this author may fit the bill. So it was off on a hunt around the local charity shops to find any of her books. In 17, yes 17, such shops in my home town this was the only one I found. Are they being preserved for prosperity somewhere?

We start with an alleged rape case where the attacker is known to the victim. It's not as straight forward as that though as the victim is "persuaded" to participate using emotional rather than physical abuse and the perpertrators 10 year old son is in the room when the abuse takes place.

Then it's over to a murder that may or may not be connected of an old lady who was once a glamour model back in the days when feathers were in the picture strategically placed.

So we now have two cases, two lots of witnesses, several investigators, a journalist, a judge, a few solicitors, more than a couple of locations and a lot of history to catch up on.

All in all this was a hard book to enjoy for me. The very reason I bought it was the court case and this paled into insignificance against the detail history of a coin, or two coins. Aside from the coin story, the noticeable difference between this court appearance and some others was the apparently dispassionate approach to it from the litigators. I appreciate that this must be necessary to do the job for any length of time but it doesn't add to the novel.
The decider- Would I buy another book by this author? No

Friday, 3 August 2012

Fallen Karin Slaughter
For a prolific author Karin Slaughter shows no signs of resting on her laurels and assuming her faithfuls will continue to buy.
From the Will Trent series comes Fallen which details some of the back story of two of the main characters from the series.
As well as being a crime thriller the book is part of a series whereby the characters form a consistent's a bit like watching The Bill....on acid.
With a variety of backgrounds to the detectives and coroner the interest is sustained throughout as the inter-relationships build, dissipate and rebuild.
Will Trent has had a childhood no-one would envy although the full story is yet to come out. He also has dyslexia which he tries to hide in various ways. He's married, allbeit only technically so. Sara Linton is the coroner of the piece and Faith Mitchell the detective who just happens to be a single mother of an older child and a very young child.
The story opens with Faith returning home to relieve her own mother of babysitting duties to find the baby in the garage, her mother missing and, later on, her mother's finger under her pillow.
Tautly written the story speeds through the whys and wherefores of the disappearance, introducing us along the way to an ex police photographer who conveniently lives next door.... The Bill, on acid, with Neighbours.
It's an advantage with these books to have read the preceding ones, if only to place some of the relationships. That doesn't mean Fallen couldn't stand alone. It could.
It's an ideal crime thriller of the popular crime thriller nature, it doesn't require as much concentration as some and provides a whole heap of entertainment.
It's clear at the end that there's more to come of the individuals even if this particular crime has been solved, not neatly, but solved.

As note the dedication reads
"To all the librarians in the world on behalf of all the kids y'all helped grow up to be writers"

As usual, the decider- would I buy another book by this author?
See a more recent review-I didn't even wait for the paperback.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Split Second Cath Staincliffe
The first issue with this book is where to categorise it.
It seems to be in the crime thriller bracket but I'm not convinced that's where it belongs.
The beginning of the book introduces us to a group of unrelated people going about their usual lives. Very quickly everything is drastically altered by one incident.
A stabbing occurs and the remainder of the book deals with the fallout one such incident can cause.
It is incredibly well written. The impact on the families, the shock is almost tangible, the despair of a witness who had the chance to intervene and didn't, all of these emotions are played out.
There is nothing chick lit about it and yet as far as it's category- yes, there's a crime but there's no real mystery and no thrill. But this doesn't mean it's not a good book- it is, to my mind it's exceptional.
The very real thoughts of the father as he tries to deal with the loss of a son while still being a husband and trying to help his wife, the struggle to do so, the glimpses of a person who his logical mind knows cannot be there. The kick of realisation as the void left by his son is brought home on a regular basis. None of the emotions are frilly, they are very simply there.
The identity of the culprits doesn't remain unknown for very long and before long we are privy to each characters's way of dealing with knowing who did this to their families. It ranges from the primeval wish to retaliate through to the blind faith that justice will out.
Through to the court case and the uncomfortably real questions that are asked of each witness and the blow is almost felt as the slam dunk of what could possibly be happening on the stand falls into consciousness.
Yes, this is how it works. Any tiny inkling of possibility will be magnified again and again to try and make sure that a person stays out of jail. This is what the defence is for.
The book opens eyes cruelly to what could possibly happen. The thoughts of the family in the court as some family members are allowed to step outside for part of the evidence whilst others have to stay to have some of their memories mauled by the legal system are described in a taut way and lay bare the raw disbelief in the process.
Some of the best characters I have come across in a while with a broad variety of them. One that stayed with me.

The decider- would I buy another book by this author?
Hell, yes!

Plague Child Peter Ransley

Historical fiction has appealed since my early twenties when I discovered Barbara Erskine. Set in Oxford in 1625 just as the plague was virulent this book is the first in a trilogy.
The main character,Tom, is introduced to us as a baby born out of wedlock and needing to be hidden. From there we are privy to his story following his relocation by plague cart.
The wide cast of characters and occupations maintain interest through the book as we meet printers, ladies maids, commoners, gentry and warriors, feminists amongst others.
For me the character that stood out most was Eaton whose tale was told by firelight one night relating his missed opportunities and letting down the fearsome guard, revealing the true romantic within.
As Tom wends his way cross country he gradually learns the detail of his birth and the intricate plot surrounding it. At the conclusion Tom is still only a young man leaving plenty of scope for the second and third books although this book does not feel incomplete.
The decider-would I read another by the same author? Yes in this trilogy as I now know Tom. In another series, possibly not, the competition is very strong.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

No way out David Kessler

Described as "perfect for fans of John Grisham and Jeff Abbott" this one was bound to appeal to me. I like the level of detail in a Grisham book.
This one is a legal thriller based in the US with a TV talk show host accused of rape as the central character.
Fortunately the talkshow host has the telephone number of a defence lawyer to hand.
As an old friend the lawyer already knows the history of his client, not all of it good and is forewarned before agreeing to take the case. Coutroom arguments are given in such a way for the reader to appreciate fully the acting capabilities of the legal system with raised eyebrows, sympathetic faces and the manipulation of the jury by manner alone.
With a two way contribution to the case by the defence lawyer and a lawyer from the insurance company with differing styles the case is the most interesting part of  the book.
Kessler provides enough twists and turns to make the book enjoyable but not enough to make it unguessable unfortunately, meaning that I had to read the last 100 or so pages simpy to check that I had the outcome correct.
The decider- would I read another by the same author? If it was already on the shelf and there wasn't a Grisham on the same shelf then yes.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Capital John Lanchester

The flurry of reviews caused me to buy the book. Hardback. At full price.
So media works.
I had a stash of review cuttings to go alongside it to review when I'd finished.
"big fast-footed tragi-comically opportune novel"
"expertly choreographed"
were just two examples.
Having read it through  I felt it had a large cast of characters some of whom were very strong, the footballer's father, the old lady's daughter and then there were weaker characters who really didn't need to be in the book. The strong pieces here were incredibly good - the waiting game of a mother dying for example.
Other elements were, in my opinion, unnecessary to the book and almost at a childish story level in comparison to the powerful parts- finding £500k in a chimney? Who didn't know what would happen to that cash? anyone?
This was my first outing with John Lanchester and as such it was quite disappointing following the hype. However as usual-
The decider- would I read another by the same author? Yes. I'd make sure it was thinner and hope that the really good writing was in it and not the padding, or I'd make sure it's already on my shelf. It is, it's called Whoops!

Monday, 9 July 2012


This is the month of Autism Anglia and a month where we see if others will join in. 

Two more people gave their support this week to the idea of raising money for local charities on a month by month basis with everyone's money going in the same direction. It's all done via

 The logos dotted around the post are a small sample of the hundreds of retailers who have signed up to help in this way.

You sign up, support #colchesterfundraisers, shop through the website and the people you buy from donate for steal a phrase....simples!

                          The simple idea is that rather than lots of people giving little bits of cash to a lot of charities  a lot of people come together to support one charity each month.

                            Last month, the first month, was the turn of Lepra Health in Action.

                                                      Next month it's Colchester Cat Rescue. September it's the turn of     April Centre. All I ask is that the charity is based in Colchester i.e. it has a CO postcode. If you would like your charity to be next simply post a comment at the bottom.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

My week

The Wicked Girls Alex Marwood

A strong debut novel pitched into the crime thriller genre.
Written by a UK journalist using a pseudonym the novel is based on the South Coast of the UK in the fictional town of "Whitmouth".
The book opens with a scene of the day of a crime in the past, allowing us to meet the perpetrators and as the book unfolds history intersperses current day scenes.
The majority of the novel deals with the aftermath. What happens to those who commit major crime as children? What happens when they are given a new identity? Taking two very different girls with very different backgrounds Alex Marwood lets us see into their home lives both in the past, to give a view of  possible triggers for the background crime and in the present as we gain understanding of the level of subterfuge they employ to live apparently normal lives. Both girls now have partners, one has children. Both have built new lives including careers of a sort.
How honest have they been with their new families? How much do their new families know?
To add to the mix there is a serial killer in Whitmouth...and a stalker. Or is that one person?

This sounds like the book could be overloaded with plot and characters but it's not. It's deftly written, non judgemental and while you might wonder at times why a stalker is necessary and just how many characters can be needed in the staff room they all add a level of understanding to the treatment of past offenders.

All in all this is a  great read on several levels. Despite the crime thriller bracket it stands out as being different from the norm with an element of social commentary and no specific detective. I look forward to the next book and hope it is as cleverly spun out.
PS to the author, thank you for the simple device that made B become A and J become K. It did make it easier!

If you would like to read it next tweet me @nneerraakk and it's yours!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Autism Anglia

#colchesterfundraisers through is this month raising funds for Autism Anglia.  
One requirement of the #colchesterfundraiser cause is that the charity is has it's head office in Colchester and Autism Anglia easily fulfil that requirement with a head office slap bang in town in North Station Road.
Their "what we do" page shows how they help a range of people from children to adults. As a side to helping people with Aspergers or Autism the help given to the individual has an effect on the family, giving them understanding, a break and support.
As always any support is welcome and buying simply using to log in before making your usual purposes you will be helping them a little at a time.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Monday update as we near the close of the month.

The surprising results:

Following on from the #colchesterfundraisers idea I now am taking two people to Indian Ocean for dinner on 25th June 2012 on North Hill Colchester where the restaurant is donating 25% of takings from set meals and takeaways that night to Lepra Health in Action. Would I have known about that without this social experiment? Who knows? 

Lepra Health in Action have been the focus of #colchesterfundraisers for June with all money raised by #colchesterfundraisers supporters on payable to them at the end of the month.
So how has the social experiment worked out?
It started with a flurry of interest with charities keen to be the charity of the month and others keen to support. Then Easyfundraising got in touch and offered to help out by simplifying the idea so that there was one cause to support which switched local charities each month (#colchesterfundraisers)

I explained to lots of people that it doesn't cost anything, it's the retail site that pays over the money not you.
I explained that all it takes is a little shift in thinking, just enough to make sure that you go to and then through that website to your usual one to buy your usual things. That on it's own will generate cash for the charities.

At the start of the month I knew that the most difficult thing to change is a habit.

At the end of the month I still know that habits are the hardest part to change.Going through easyfundraising website this month has generated £2.23 on my home account and £1.08 on the work account for Lepra Health in Action via #colchesterfundraisers giving a total of £3.31 they wouldn't usually have received from me.

If 9 more people join in next month then Autism Anglia could receive an unexpected £30 odd pounds...
Don't forget to add your choice of local charity to benefit to this post so that they have a turn.

Tell everyone you're joining in and let's get a proper groundswell here for really good causes.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Flipnosis Kevin Dutton

Most generously given to SlackSpace Colchester to distribute on their World Book Night event earlier in 2012.
As a science book it is great, it's accessible for those of us who flunked science early on.
Dealing with the art of persuasion particularly split second persuasion the book gives working examples, anecdotes and varied examples of how easily we can all be influenced even by such simple things as eyebrows.
With statistical data to back up the ideas put forward and a Research Fellow as the author the book itself is an illustration of it's subject. It's certainly persuasive.
It's one for an entire read through and then one to check back on a bit at a time.

I'm now waiting until I see the local homeless trying out some of the scams inside the book. I, for one, will give them some money if they do try to influence me in such a subtle and skillful way!

The decider-would I read another by the same author? Yes I think so and if I didn't I dare say he'd find a way to change mind, maybe even by simply changing the cover design :)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Silver Sparrow Tayari Jones

No recommendation and no review led me to this one. It showed up on my twitter feed and was one of those that caused random purchasing of books. Sometimes that system fails. This time it didn't.
Tayari Jones is a new author to me. Not simply an author I'd never read but one I'd never heard of. A look through her back catalogue shows a selection of books with unusual storylines.
I chose Silver Sparrow as my starter purely because it seemed so unusual.
The feel of the book as you read through it is Southern American with a slow dignified pace. It revolves around two half sisters. It describes their separate lives, their different circumstances, the different treatment of a legitimate vs illegitimate child. Whilst the two sisters are the centre of the tale their mothers also have very strong personalities.
The weak spots in the tale are the men. One is the father who does try his best to maintain two families and the other a family friend who knows everyone and loves most of them.
At times sad, at times funny, truly well written with some memorable lines this one deserves to succeed. Personally I preferred it to The Help and would liken it to Barabara Kingsolver.
Now all I have to do is buy the other books....
Publisher - Algonquin Books

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Lepra Health In Action

are helping with this idea by making it easy for us! They have set up an account called "#colchesterfundraisers" that will switch charities each month on our instruction. This saves everybody having to remember individually.

#colchesterfundraisers first charity is Lepra Health In Action.
LEPRA Health in ActionWe're now 17 days into their turn and it would be great if more people could join in.
Most of us know this as a national/international charity so the question may be "what does it have to do with Colchester?"
Well, it's based in the town with it's head office on Middleborough.
It was the first charity suggested on the original post asking for suggestions for a Colchester charity for Colchester residents to support. As such it has the inaugural space. As well as providing direct health care overseas for leprosy sufferers Lepra works to raise awareness of the disease and to reduce the stigma attached to it.
Full information on their work can be found on their website.

The idea of #colchesterfundraisers was twofold:
Firstly an experiment to see if the town could pull together
Secondly to showcase the wide variety of charitable works we have on our own doorstep.
To ensure the idea remains impartial I am unable to suggest any charities myself but am aware that we have a long way to go before they are all listed.

Will joining in cost anything? No
What's the first step? Sign up at 
Select your charity "#colchesterfundraisers"
Next step? When you buy online log into easyfundraising first to see if the website you intend using is on there.
With choices ranging from business cards to takeaway meals to Amazon to Boots to Tesco to Jessops to Achica and everywhere in between it's likely it is
When you buy from your chosen website it pays a small amount of commission across to easyfundraising for transfer to the charity. It doesn't cost you any more.
As a community we have the power to make a real difference if we make a concentrated effort rather than individuals  acting alone.
In 2010 Colchester had a population of 181,000. If we say that is all made up of families of 4 (it isn't) then we have 45250 families. If half of those have a computer and buy one item each month using #colchesterfundraisers and raise 5p then that's £2262.50 for the month's charity. A numbe any of them would be pleased with.
We have a long way to go but it's possible.
What's the difficult bit?
Remembering to use easyfundraising before going through to website you want to end up on.

Feel free to ask questions, add your charity in the comments box below and say hello on twitter @nneerraakk

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Teenage Colchester

Just what is on offer for a teenager in Colchester on a Saturday?

This is one that doesn't know either the area or anyone in it so has no choice but to tag along. Possibly the best kind of teenager, no arguments but equally no idea.

So we'll start off with a quick trip to Wivenhoe for a wander around a really vibrant community Art on the railings event. The teenager is not artistic but still is enthralled with the art, the music, the mass of people packed into such a small space. I leave with emptier pockets, the church has slightly fuller coffers. It's also a novel experience to see the quirky houses far removed from her home environment. I end up with a hardback copy of Calum's Road, a place I visited last month in a vw campervan. Off to the Hythe where they're celebrating their community centre with an activity day, mini olympics, hospital radio and a diabetes bric a brac stand. Again a group of people having fun for pennies.

Then it's time for my treat. Something I want to play with. Thank you Minories for making it possible for me to hand you £2 to look after while I borrow your key to the Camera Obscura.

A magical piece of equipment created by Jackie Mellor that I dived into followed by a very bemused teenager. The fascination with the science cut right through the ennui evidenced so far in Colchester town centre. To any or all councillors who have received Jubilee fund money, this is what you want. And come to that just how much of an alteration to Jumbo would it take? Simplistic entertainment - a legacy alongside zoos from the Victorians that has yet to be outclassed by any playstation, xbox or wii experience.

Colchester sometimes you just rock!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Social experiment...

One day on from the original post and here's a quick update.
Lepra signed up yesterday and the first amount of cash towards their charity has been allocated to them today.
They'll have to wait until there's a bit more of it before it's paid over but pennies and pounds and all that...
The charities that have been nominated so far love the idea, one of them very quickly signing up for their easyfundraising account to make it possible.
I've had offers of space for guest blogs to promote the idea.
Colchester Chronicle have very generously and without me asking added the idea to their blog.
Some people already knew about the idea of funding through buying and are switching charities for the month to join in.
It doesn't make any difference to what we spend online simply the route we go to spend it.
Lepra were the first charity volunteered so they get June and the first round of cash.
Anglia Autismare eagerly awaiting their turn in July.
Will it work? Only people power can make it succeed. More and more if us are turning to doing our own thing and making our communities succeed through collaboration. Please help make it work, sign up ateasyfundraising choose Lepra as your charity for June, check back here or on twitter #colchesterfundraisers to see how we're all doing together for one cause,add your own choice of CO postcode charity in a comment at the bottom and most importantly...

Tell everyone you're joining in and let's get a proper groundswell here for really good causes.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Social experiment anyone?

Just how much difference could Colchester people make to Colchester charities simply by co-ordinating effort? This was something I wondered as I shopped online using and realised that I'd raised around £40 on my home account and a similar amount on my work account.
I'd chosen 2 different charities and both of them had around 5 supporters.
Not a lot of cash for them then. But it had cost me nothing to do.
So what would happen if a group of people, let's say Colcestrians decided to all use the same fundraising website and support the same charity? Possibly for a month at a time so that everybody's chosen charity got a turn at being supported by the whole group.
So the only change in habit would be to go to the fundraising page before making a purchase so that a percentage of sale is donated by the retailer to the charity.
Possible common retailers include amazon, premier inn, jessops, trainline, moo business cards but there are hundreds of others covering just about everything we might buy.
At the moment there doesn't seem to be a team group facility on easyfundraising so maybe we could simply post in comments below our names or tweet them, I'm @nneerraakk
It wouldn't be fair for me to choose the first charity so maybe someone else can take first comment below to add their charity of choice. The only thing I would ask is that since I'm trying to see how this works in a limited area the charity has a CO postcode registered office.
As soon as the first comment is in I will switch my account over to that charity changing to the next one on the comments list on the first of each month. I will also tweet on the first of each month using #colchesterfundraisers to let everyone know what that month's charity is.
Fingers crossed this will snowball and we'll end up with loads of funds raised for local issues.
Any questions post them in the comments below and if possible let me know on twitter that it's there.
Good luck, Colchester, let's see how we do :)
Anyone care to be first with their charity?