Monday, 26 August 2013

Burial Rites - Hannah Kent

Debut novel from an Australian writer.
Based in Iceland in 1829 the book starts with an explanation of "sson" and "dottir" giving the impression it's going to be difficult to keep track of the characters. It isn't.
Agnes Magnusdottir is sentenced to death for the murder of her lover but the sentence is not to be carried out immediately. Transferred from a prison to be contained in a family home of a local dignitary she gradually reveals her story to the family.
Forced into the roles of jailers the family find it difficult to switch from their normal manner to any strangers or servants and simply treat her as an additional member of the household, allbeit slightly warier.
Set in inhospitable countryside there is some great description throughout. The hardship of walking to find work and the whole way of life when there is no money to be spent plays out really well and encourages the reader to compare then and now while reading.
All the while around Agnes preparations are being made for her execution and her support is provided in the form of a very naive trainee priest.
Great interaction, great environment and excellent debut.

Publisher - Picador

Among the hoods - Harriet Sergeant

A hugely important book written in a plain manner to enable the reader to judge. Unfortunately unlikely to be
read by the people who need to read it.
Harriet Sergeant spent a number of years interacting with a gang in London getting to know it's members.
During this time she heard their stories, hoped with them and despaired with them.
Whilst in no way condoning their actions she was able to see just why they may act as they do and shares her discoveries with the reader.
Any violence is stated in a matter of fact way but the shocks throughout the read do not relate to the violence, rather they relate to the circumstances which these young people find themselves in and their stifled attempts to break out of their particular system.
There is a situation in the book to disturb every reader.
The downsides:
It's a personal book and therefore relates to Harriet Sergeant's attempts to assist. 
There is no suggestion of any way to help. But then that is the issue.
At £9.99 for a skinny read it's quite expensive but for educational value it is extremely cheap.

Publisher - Faber & Faber

Ten seconds from the sun - Russell Celyn Jones

Ray Greenland has the perfect family life and a desperate secret. When it appears the secret may be outed
Greenland acts to defend his new life- as much as he's able to.
Gradually winding the story like a clock coil Celyn Jones does an excellent job and when the coil snaps your heart breaks.
A one-liner to relieve all the tension placed perfectly in the tale.
Brilliantly planned book, addictive and ready with the hit.

Publisher - Abacus

This is how it ends - Kathleen McMahon

I'm not quite sure why I got this one. To me it fits into the women's fiction bracket-not quite chick lit but it's not one you'd expect your husband to read.
Bruno loses his banking job in the US in the firstdays of the banking crisis and decides to take his chance to discover his ancestry. So it's off to Ireland.
Hugh is the contacthe knows of and he's an awkward older man who doesn't want to know Bruno.
Hugh's daughter, Addie, is an out of work architect. She's slightly more amenable initially and gradually gets to trust him.
There are family trials, secrets and revelations alongside a general medical council hearing for HUgh and a recent trauma for Addie.
Lots of reviews say it's great and heart rending.
For me it missed the mark and was more of an airport read.

Publisher - Sphere

Twelve babies on a bike - Dot May Dunn

One of a rush of books hot on the heels of Jennifer Worth's Call the Midwife series. Jennifer Worth imbued
her books with the heartbreak, hardships and successes of old school midwives and the nuns. Dot May Dunn presents more of an account of each delivery towards qualification. More case study than emotive but not written in a technical way. Stick with Call the Midwife.

Publisher - Orion

The bookshop strikes back - Ann Patchett

It's tiny, a whole 20 mini pages. It is, however, highly attractive to avid readers who are desperate not to
have their reading choice narrowed by chain stores haggling over margin.
Yes, we pay more in independents but we get diversity not dictation.
This is all about Ann Patchett's decision to open her own bookshop and her admittance that she's not the one to run it. It's a success with it's authors stopping by and it's famous name backing.
Good to see an author backing the industry in a money where your mouth is kind of way.

Publisher - Bloomsbury

Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn

Camille is a reporter in Chicago feeling as though she is tolerated at work and never going to be good. She's
from an old money background and is striking out on her own in a new town.
Having not been home for a while she's underimpressed when her boss assigns her to a story there.
One young girl is missing and another has been murdered. Since Camille's sister died early in life the whole set up is not something she's looking forward to.
Returning home to her mother, stepfather and stepsister is daunting and she's surprised to see her room has not been changed since she left. She's still not the favourite, that honour goes to her stepsister, Amma, who she doesn't know at all.
Arriving back she gets acquainted with the only other stranger in the hick town who just happens to be investigating the murder.
It's not long before the second girl is found and a local boy is placed under suspicion by the other townspeople.
The book has small town pettiness, mental illness, family dynamics, murder and Gillian Flynn is the author.
In it's way it's better than Gone Girl

Publisher - Three Rivers Press

Panopticon - Jenni Fagan

A product of the system Anais Hendricks is placed in Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders.
This is an excellent book demonstrating the innocence and naivety that manages to place a tentative hold on a soul that should really have been battered into submission by it's mistreatment.
Anais' back story is stated almost dispassionately allowing current events to glare sharply proud of their backdrop.
One of the most harrowing scenes I've read in a long time is in the book - not because it's gorily descriptive, but because the character of Anais has been so artfully described that the scene shocks.
Masterfully crafted book from a debut author.

Publisher - Windmill

Wars of the Roses - Conn Iggulden

Another masterpiece from Conn Iggulden this time closer to home.
Based in England and France there are three main characters.
Derry Brewer:behind the scenes facilitator
Jack Cade:renegade seeking justice following the death of his son
Margaret:French princess married to the British King without sight of him nbefore marriage
So a core cast covering all elements of society highest to lowest. Each has a surrounding of lesser characters that shift and interact with the others.
Starting with the realisation that King Henry does not have the health to govern, increase or even maintain the realm a solution is sought to hold the French on their own side of the Channel. Already in France are British landholdings causing unrest amongst the locals. The solution? Marry King Henry to a French princess but don't allow him to go to his own wedding. High society was well aware that allowing the French to see the king may well give them the confidence to invade. The price of the wedding? The English land in France.
So the wedding of King Henry to Princess Margaret was orchestrated by Derry Brewer and leaves Jack Cade already brimming over with resentment but now with a lot of allies who also despised the bargaining.
Painting fighting as he always does the reader can almost imagine Iggulden with his maps and lead soldiers playing out his battles as he writes. (A computer would spoil the illusion). Weapons are true to the day, including the snobbery relating to them.
Margaret grows up quickly when she gets to England and realises the king is not as she expected. She has to decide who to trust and who to watch and when to step in as the King's voice.
With a battle raging at the tower gates she is left defending her husband's sovereignty.
Fantastic way to learn your history-should be required school reading. Slight note for the appendix- the London Stone still exists in Cannon Street.
Thanks to Conn Iggulden for this advance copy.

Publisher - Michael Joseph

The Calling - Alison Bruce

Back with DC Goodhew and this is one of my no fail authors.
As usual it's intricate with a wide cast of characters.
Goodhew is a quiet, thoughtful police officer, calmly working his way through evidence he's stored of previous cases. The book introduces a character who's brilliant as a control freak, no major incidents, just the incipient persuasions that make such people difficult to spot.
Add a girl who's only interested in falling in love - at any price - and you have the start point of a destructive relationship.
Showing sociopathic tendencies the criminal is difficult to find as part of his character is a determination to blend.
Cat and mouse detective story well worth reading.

Publisher - Robinson

Hood rat - Gavin Knight

Which is incredibly worrying.
Just how does a hood rat evolve?
What is required of the role?
And how would you escape?
Covering three cities, London, Manchester and Glasgow Gavin Knight leads us through the underworld as he gets to know the police and the youths involved.
The book covers the drug trade and sink estates as well as the police dedicated to removing the problem.
As it is such a worrying book it does sometimes become depressing as you get further through and no ideas for resolution or reduction are supplied.
This is however corrected at the end of the book and the idea is notable for it's simplicity.
Recommended reading for the police force of Luton.

Publisher- Picador

Alys Always - Harriet Lane

Following a road accident a passerby stops to help. Unfortunately the victim of the accident doesn't survive.
As part of a new initiative the passerby is asked to meet the victim's family and at this point seems to slip into a new identity herself. The deceased's husband is a popular author, the passerby writes for a magazine in a very minor role and seizes the opportunity to make herself feel a little bit more important.
She gradually insinuates herself into the family, trusted by some, ignored somewhat by another and viewed at least warily by another.
It's spookily easy to imagine how a person might do this.
What's not so easy is the ending of the book.
Weirdly addictive reading though.

Publisher - Phoenix

Norwegian by Night - Derek B Miller

Following his wife's death Sheldon moves to Norway to live with his granddaughter.
Left home alone in the flat one day he hears a violent argument and steps in to help the victims.
Through the book are references to Sheldon's Jewishness and the history of Jews in general.
One of the sentences that  rings powerfully relates to his single action to help and was that so hard?
On the run with a young boy who's being hunted by his violent father there are adventures galore and a great relationship between an old man and a young boy who don't speak the same language.
There's action, violence, heartbreak and humour.
I'm in the queue for the next one.

Publisher - Faber & Faber

The Knife Man - Wendy Moore

A biography of John Hunter, the founder of modern surgery.
Impressively researched this book still has an emminently readable quality appealing even to a reader with no
medical knowledge.
In an era of blood letting John Hunter impressed upon colleagues the need to opt for non-surgical care if at all possible. He worked in London and on the battlefield attached to the army trialling his ideas on patients who may or may not be aware that they were guinea pigs.
Meticulously documenting all of his cases and referring back to previous similar cases he was able to build persuasive arguments for or against his notions.
Ideas of such foward thinking nature were not always welcomed by his peers who were making a tidy fortune the old way. Not necessarily being paid by result.
Despite the gravity of the subject matter Wendy Moore manages to tell the story in the round, including his family and lifestyle to enable the reader to fully appreciate his character.

Publisher - Bantam

Weird things customers say in bookshops - Jen Campbell

A five minute read. Some laugh out loud moments, a few sniggers and several 'duhs'.
I did find out there's a bookshop called the Yellow Lighted Bookshop in Gloucestershire. When I'm on holiday there I'll visit.
Worth passing around bibliophiles.

Publisher - Constable

The Humans - Matt Haig

When a maths professor solves an important problem an extra-terrestrial population is worried humanity may
be getting a touch too close.
So they dispose of the professor and send one of their own to inhabit his body and his life.
There follows a crash course in how to be a human and how to relate to a family. With no point of reference to draw upon this proves entertaining. All emotions must be learned and all conversations practised. Why do humans have conversations that mean nothing or alternatively mean the opposite of the words spoken?
Tasked to destroy any human who is aware of the problem solving the imposter has to get to know colleagues as well as family.
Slapstick funny interludes along the way.
This is an interesting take on how life would be lived without protocol, amusing in places.

Publisher - Canongate

Friday, 23 August 2013

Until you're mine - Samantha Hayes

From the back
"You have something someone else wants.  At any cost"

Crime thriller from a well travelled author who is new to me. Fortunately there's a back list available.

Claudia is married to a naval husband and is stepmother to twin boys. She's also pregnant.
When her husband is due to rejoin his submarine it's decided that a nanny might be a good idea and Zoe joins the household.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city, someone is murdering pregnant women and trying to remove their babies.

The book lets you into the lives of the household alongside reporting on the police investigation by a husband and wife team. As well as this there's Zoe's story. So really three in one that don't start linking up in a problem solving way until the 100th page or so (from 400).

This has got to be one of the best crime thrillers I've read in a while. From it's slow insidious run up to maybe, maybe not letting you into the secret to the finale that's not a finale towards the end. There are almost two books in one here but that doesn't make it a complicated read.

If you have a relative that likes thriller this is a very safe bet for a Christmas present.

I'm off to buy the others.....

Publisher - Century

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

A cupboard full of coats - Yvette Edwards

Despite a diverse cast Yvette Edwards manages to nail the characters perfectly.

We meet Jinx firstly with her own child and learn of the difficulties in that relationship. We then hear her story from child to adult. Along the way a family friend, Lemon, is by her side.
As a 3 year old Jinx becomes a part of a single parent family when her father dies, leaving her the only object of attention for her mother. When Jinx is 10 her mother meets Berris and he quickly joins the family unit.
He's arrogant, vain and along with those traits, as is common, he's jealous and insecure.
Jealous and insecurity are new emotions to Jinx and she takes a while recognising them. Parallel to jealousy quite often goes deviousness and hiding things from children is an art form.
When her mother dies Jinx is left damaged by the experience, convinced that it was her fault and there is a lasting effect on the relationship with her own child later in life.
The book is gently written but that doesn't stop it exploring the subject of domestic abuse with all it's complexities, it's slow burn from minor control to violence.
A very well thought out book which is a voyage of discovery, Montserratian cookery, 80's style, domestic abuse and friendship.
Recommended - Man Booker Longlist 2011
Publisher - Oneworld
#bookreview by +karentaylor

Kings of the Earth - Jon Clinch

Three brothers who have been managing on their own in a very rough farm environment are the main
characters in the story.
They're the ones nobody wanted to be next to in the playground and the ones with the most space around them in a restaurant.
One has managed to do national service and one is what we would now term 'special needs'.
Despite their undesirability the local community cares for them in an unobtrusive manner.
When one brother is found dead in the bed the share it's a surprise in the town that another brother is considered as a suspect for killing his brother.
It's a great picture of the environment but it's written in a very jumpy manner going between people and times in very short bursts.
Add to that the fact that you get to the end of the book without the answers to some of the questions and this becomes a strange book. Worth a read for its descriptive skills but if you like a beginning, middle and neat ending then it's probably not for you.

Publisher - Random House
#bookreview by +karentaylor

Monday, 29 July 2013

Ghost Milk - Iain Sinclair

I admit I like the east end of London. I'm also unimpressed by the olympic village and it's demise.
This helps when reading the book as Sinclair has clearly heavily researched the creation of the village and it's impact then and now on local amenities, environment and business.
However as he says in the book his previous book 'Hackney, that Rose Red Empire' sold mainly due to a great cover and to lovers of the east end.
That doesn't stop this one being reminiscent of a very long diatribe.
It has some useful insightful moments but they're few and far between for a book of 400+ pages.
To be fair it's not only about London, Sinclair does travel and introduces us to other cities trying to recover themselves from disruption.
I have a feeling I'd have enjoyed this is far fewer pages.
Off now to my relatives. In Wanstead.

Publisher - Hamish Hamilton

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Curiosity - Stephen Kiernan

This has got to be one of the most enjoyable books I've read in quite a while.
With a proponent who is one of my favourites, Chris Bohjalian, it's one that had to be read.
Taking a subject where ethics can be argued is usually tricky but in this case Kiernan doesn't try to come down on either side and leaves the reader simply to enjoy.
Dr Kate Philo is part of a team searching for a particular type of iceberg and a particular type of ice to try and find frozen life within it.
With krill already reanimated the team is hoping for a slightly bigger catch this time. What they get is a human.
Back to base and it's time for the very varied team of scientists and computer technicians to get to work carefully trying to prove their theories on a larger subject.
It's a great opportunity for publicity for the institution and, if lucky, additional funding. Currently funded by private investors the use of public money is about the only argument they don't have to protest. The head of the institution Mr Carthage is so up himself he even talks about himself as second person. He inspires dislike, disgust, amusement and despair in his staff and gradually becomes more of a blunderer.
As the human is brought back to existence life becomes more interesting. Not only is he alive he's clever as well. He's curious and along the way there are a few observations that show life back then has not necessarily been improved upon.
As the human is awoken Dr Philo is charged with the responsibility of caregiver, educator, a role she embraces.
Life's not so simple though when there's male and female involved.
Entertaining, funny, sad, thought provoking. Drip feeds you the ending as you read through. If this author attains a diverse list he will be one to watch.
Great read.

Publisher - John Murray

She Rises - Kate Worsley

Local and good.

Kate Worsley has based her book in the coastal town of Harwich, it's surrounding villages and on travels on
a merchant ship.
It's not as simple as a naval story, focussing on the life of the main character, Lou. Initially she's a maid in a grand(er) house but is moved to be a lady's companion in Harwich to a much loved daughter.
It's a great eye-opener for her as she struggles to attend her lady's every wish. Although she's aware of the mistress' self-absorption she's still in awe of her.
While she's in Harwich it's an opportunity to search for her brother and father, both at sea, possibly by being 'pressed' into service.
There's something in this book from just about every social strata, high society down to revelling bordellos.
It is very cleverly presented with the story flipping between Lou and her brother as they continue in their roles. His story is told as he is on board ship having been pressed. He finds himself the subject of attention due to his young age and the length of time the sailors are asea.
However the book is far trickier than this but to say any more of their lives would give away the sheer pleasure of the complexity in this well researched, highly atmospheric book.

Very unusual. Also a very stylish physical book, up there in the challenge to keep readers buying paper.

Publisher - Bloomsbury

Lambeth Country Show 2013

Enviable diversity attended by around 150,000 peaceful people. Totally surreal camel racing in Brixton.
KISS ideas floating around everywhere.
Hopefully my local festival will steal some of them.

Right-borrow a lorry and show cycles whether they can be seen.

Community consultation?
Take it to the people, don't expect them to turn up at a village hall at 7.30pm on a Thursday night when Eastenders is just starting.

Choose a theme for your vegetables.....

or be really, really neat about them....

Get an eagle and some camels....

make sure everyone knows what's where with clear signage...

and party on!

Thank you Lambeth Council, will be back next year

The heaven tree - Edith Pargeter


Since I loved Pillars of the Earth I thought I'd have a read of an earlier cathedral building book.The downside of a 1993 edition is that we appeared to be much more paper conscious so the print is dense and the book is small.
The upside of a 1993 edition is that we appeared to be much more paper conscious!
In the reign of King John I the class structure included serfs and lords of the manor with jurisdiction over them. Punishment could be swift, effective and cruel.
With all of the social awareness of Robin Hood helping the poor the hero of the book quickly gets himself into trouble with the local lord defying current rules.
A rather unlikely escape from the area sees the two main characters overseas plying their trade as masons.
Excellent descriptions of design techniques and workmanship throughout the book makes it a very atmospheric read even 20 years after first publication.

Publisher - Warner books

Monday, 22 July 2013

Requiem - Lauren Oliver

The final book in the Delirium trilogy.
As escapees from a regime which operates on teenagers to remove the erratic 'love' gland-the cause of strife and war down the ages - Alex & Lena join forces with other escapees. Outside of the city there is no easy availability of food and shelter and survival is not definite.
Inside the city is no guarantee either, a class system is still evident and there are rumbles of overall social discontent.
As a young adult book this is an excellent read. It's not really a stand alone, so much of it relates back to the previous two without explanation.
A very good series to get teenagers interested in reading.

Publisher - Hodder & Stoughton

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Whitecross Street Party

Flier by Wreckage International
July 20th and 21st 2013

There's a Festival of Neighbourhood on the South Bank at the moment, there's also a little tiff about some skateboarding facility.

The true Festival of Neighbourhood this weekend was in Islington.

An amazing street party with a real community vibe organised by St Luke's Trust
Lots of community literature on offer covering things like teaching
people how to cook cheaply, to EC1 Men's shed, a targeted job finding service, music for youths including "Suspicious B" on the decks and a great welcome to the street in the form of this local band.....and they are good.
A few photos to try and get across the atmosphere and at the very bottom a succinct history of the street itself.
Welcome just outside the school at the very entrance to the festival, gotta love the top hat flourish.

Up and dancing came into it.......

Despite the serious concentration in playing the drums....

A touch of local radio from Bramble FM, with free exercise thrown in for good measure and a colouring book doing the rounds for the adults to colour a page each while they relaxed...

 But this is a festival celebrating art, particularly street art. A taster, and at the bottom the street's origins in concise terms that twitter would be proud of.  


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Dark Places - Gillian Flynn

Libby Day's family is mainly murdered around her when she is just 7 years of age. Her remaining sibling,
Ben, is jailed for the murders while she is passed from carer to carer getting more and more unmanageable and draining the compensation money awarded. Only her father doesn't care for her.
We meet her as the money is nearly gone and she receives a proposition from a group of people calling themselves 'Kill Club' and asking her to come along and be a special guest at one of their murder solving conferences.
Without having relived her experience to that point she is surprised and shocked that the group don't pity her and do think that her brother is innocent. She's stuck in a time in her mind when she was the poor innocent and is perturbed that the group see her as the adult she now is.
Encouraged by the group's payments she attempts to contact people around at the time of the crimes digging up old feelings, visiting prisons and travelling across the country to see her father in his very unusual living space. He's only interested in her for the mmoney he thinks she still has.
As we learn of her story we're also privy to the group's ideas about other crimes that they are interested in, both those the police know about and those that the group think that they have uncovered without anyone else being aware of them.
With two time spans running parallel this is an excellent crime thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Publisher - Phoenix Books

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Untelling - Tayari Jones

Based in deep south America this is the tale of a girl down on her luck but still trying to keep her home
The Untelling - Tayari Jones

together. She works but only earns enough to just about make it work. So no flash clothes and no flash lifestyle and living in an environment you can only try and work your way out of.
She's not got a high opinion of herself and when she gets a boyfriend she really wants to keep hold of him. Whether or not he's a great catch. He's not a bad boy but there's nothing to write home about.
When she thinks she's pregnant it's a secret not to be shared. After a visit to the doctors however it's not as straightforward as pregnancy and she is left with how to deal with another possible life blow.
Written in Tayari Jones' easy style this is a poignant tale dealing with an issue that's rarely spoken about.
Not quite up there with her "Silver Sparrow" but still a good read.

Publisher - Warner Books (now Hachette)

Wombling -Colchester

And because I haven't done it for a while, a little bit of wombling.
And it all adds up to: 5 hats, 1 coat, 1 pair of earmuffs, £2.50, 1 necklace, 1 car park ticket, 1 fake rose and a £25 top man voucher, one tom-tom case, 1 far

Crafty Days

It's hot. There's lots of festivals on and the water bottle won't fit in my handbag. Cue the solution.

Half an hour with a needle and cotton and I have it?

Swear Down - Russ Litten

A two attempt book.
First attempt broken by a review that said a man from Hull should not attempt the lingo of a boy from a sink
estate in the East End. Example "wasn't like tiefing out of cars"
But then if authors never attempted to step outside of themselves for fiction we'd have an awful lot of books about middle-aged men from Hull.
So, second attempt. This one partly inspired by an imminent attendance at the Arts Club in Mayfair by the author which I was lucky enough to go to. (organised by Litro)
This time I managed to get completely into the speech.
The book is based on a young boy trying very hard to get away from his environment, working, saving and avoiding gang trouble, drugs, knives and fighting. He meets up with an older man from Hull who seems never to have saved a penny in his life, using it for gambling, drinking and the occasional spliff.
Sometimes he may buy food.
They've both given a statement to the police that they are guilty of murder. The same murder.
Someone has to decide which one of them is the guilty one, so enter Detective Ndekwe.
Ndekwe is the straightest of straight cops much to the irritation of his colleagues who are impatient with his pernicketiness (is that a word?). As far as they're concerned they have two people in front of them, one of whom is a young black boy and therefore he is the guilty one.
Through the book are the statements of the two,long and waffly from the older man who, of course, has a life story to tell...and does.
The innocent nature of the young boy comes across well despite his forays into gang culture when he was a little bit younger, as does the protective nature of the old sot.
Despite the crime featured it's not a run of the mill crime fiction, it has much more dependence on the relationship between the two and this adds magnificently to the tale.
It's an excellent read with an unexpected twist written by a man who has spent a while teaching creative writing in prisons.
At the Arts Club Russ Litten was an entertainment, rather than the bland monotone reading that you occasionally get from authors he threw himself into it and acted out the part brilliantly. I'd be surprised if anybody there who hadn't read the book didn't go away wanting to.
A quick question about his previous book "Scream if you want to go faster" established that it was very different from this one so it looks like he's an author who will keep us entertained with diversity rather than churning out factory crime fiction. I hope so.

Publisher - Tindal Street Press

Sunday, 7 July 2013

The Gamal - Ciaran Collins

The first thing to note is the style of writing. It takes some getting used to as you read through and is
buy from your local indie bookseller
interspersed with Gaelic.
The Gamal of the title is a boy who is treated as mentally deficient although his own telling of the story indicates otherwise.
He adores Sinead but she only has eyes for James.
As an attractive young girl Sinead draws attention but doesn't respond, provoking local boys to try and make sure they're noticed.
All the while in the background the Gamal is relating different incidents. Parallel to this are extracts from a court case and diary notes of his visit to the psychiatrist.
The court case is gradually revealed with the resolution not becoming apparent until close to the end.
Very cleverly written even if it takes some determination to get into the swing of it.
Leaves a lasting impression.

Publisher - Bloomsbury Circus

The Fear Index - Robert Harris

Take an intelligent man who is well versed in possibilities and probabilities but less so in social behaviour and
add to one man who is gregarious, persuasive and avaricious and you have the formula for a successful investment company. Especially when the geek invents a programme that can predict the market's 'feelings'.
By reading data from various websites and combining it with the knowledge already stored the programme gets more and more efficient.
It gets slightly worrying when it predicts the downturn of an air company just before an air crash.
Fascinating in it's easy read of the stock market the book doesn't quite reach the standards of Enigma as the characters surrounding the idea are not as strong.
At the end you're still left wondering why the geek's wife married him.
There's no strong relationship between the three main characters.
Overall it brings the world of hedge funds to an easy level, the idea of the programme is great but the book as a whole doesn't quite work for me.

Publisher - Hutchinson

The Dinner - Herman Koch

If this is the first book translated from the Dutch by this author I'm in the queue for the second.
At a dinner two brothers, one successful, one not, and their wives tiptoe around the big issue of their sons' behaviour.
In the poshest restaurant in town they gradually get aound to discussing the elephant in the room. Or rather the successful brother tells them what's going to happen.
The sons have committed a heinous crime and the fallout is going to be big should it be revealed that they are guilty, impacting greatly on the career of the successful brother.
This is an amazing rollercoaster of a book where you find your reactions to the characters changing constantly ranging from a level of understanding to complete disbelief.
The boys themselves feature intermittently. There are three sons, two biological , one adopted. The subject of nature versus nurture arises but it's really an unnecessary part of the book and fortunately a small discussion.
The whole book is great for provoking conflict in your own mind, just imagine it in a book club setting.

Publisher - Atlantic

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Mind the child- Camila Batmanghelidjh

From a marvellous woman a book guaranteed to have at least one fact in it that you didn't already know.
It tells the back stories of several of the children and adults passing through and staying within the care of Kids Company in Camberwell.
Showing horribly the attitudes of the general public to the children and the damage inside the children's heads for a lifetime afterwards.
A very important book which should be read also by councils before deciding budgets.
A book with genuine heart.
Hopefully this has been published both as a part of the Penhuin Underground Lines series and independantly.
Since reading it I have seen a quote from the book carefully painted in enamel paint onto a ceramic tile and affixed discreetly to a wall outside embankment tube station.
Given the number of homeless that have always congregated there I wonder if the tile did originate 
at Kids Company, either directly or indirectly.
Either way I hope lots of people see it.

Publisher - Penguin

Valeria's last stand - Mark Fitten

Described on the back of the book as 'a caustic old woman' Valeria lives up to the description.
But then she decides that a certain man in the village will be hers. No wondering or dreaming about it, just simply 'will'.
Great one liners in the book and some brilliant scenarios as she goes about her mission dismissing the local blowsy barmaid as irrelevant almost.
Well worth a read for a break in routine.

Publisher - Bloomsbury