Saturday, 14 March 2015

How to Recover Your Dojo Mojo - Book Review


I've joined the team at BookMuse.co.uk and here's my first review of a contemporary fiction novel, The Ground Will Catch You by David Powning. Please head on over and have a read of my review. Here are the first couple of lines.

A thought-provoking, character-driven novel. The main character and narrator, Steve Hollis, is an anti-hero who has difficulty fitting into the world around him. He’s successful at his advertising sales job but feels no pride from it and dislikes his work colleagues. His former interest in Judo was put aside when he abused the martial art for purposes of revenge, and guilt denies him a return to the sport. A passion for life is something that he keeps locked away, like a miser saving up money with no foreseeable hope of ever spending it. Life picks Steve up and slams him down on the mat. He lets the ground catch him and bounces back for more punishment. Rinse and repeat. Steve haphazardly wanders through existence without making any real life-choice decisions. Until he meets two new, very different people: Jack and Emily. .... Read the rest at BookMuse.co.uk


Sunday, 8 February 2015

Ruby Reviews The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0857207237/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0857207237&linkCode=as2&tag=mcp2014-20&linkId=QUNNG25R7HUJU646



I picked up this hardback after Mrs R had left it lying around. Her book club has been going through a Misery Lit phase (like forever) and she had chosen The Age of Miracles as a little light relief. I noticed that she fairly flew through the book and thought it must be lightweight, but something piqued my interest – probably the cover. I read the blurb and gave it a go.



Well, several exhausted days later I’m glad that I’ve finished reading this book. Reviewers on Amazon variously describe it as a coming of age novel or YA. Genre schmenre, this book freaked me out. The premise of uncontrollable changes to planet Earth is not unique, but the way it was handled captivated me. The narrator is a young girl who is a bit of an ugly duckling. She describes the slowing of the Earth’s rotation and the multitude of impacts it has on everyday life. Through it all she remains fixated on a boy around whom her world revolves. The changes to the Earth are gradual, not apocalyptic, although there are disastrous consequences for the other animals with which we share the planet. More central to the story are the social divisions and the impact of extended daylight and darkness hours upon characters and relationships.



It was only on day three of reading this book (my free reading time is at breakfast and lunch) that I realised what it was doing to me. I was watching the early morning sky as dawn broke in winter Ireland and wondering if it was a few minutes later than the previous day, although we’re heading into spring and the day should be gaining on the night. Then, as I let the dog out before bed, it seemed that the day had lengthened. In the mornings I thought my sleep had been extended, my circadian rhythms challenged. I was living through the slowing of the Earth’s revolution. If by Bread kept playing in my head. If the world should stop revolving, spinning slowly down to die, then I did want to spend it with my wife and family. I wouldn’t desert them: as all the stars went out, one by one, we would simply fly away.



When the book was done I breathed a sigh of escape and could reflect upon the distorted behaviour of those characters in The Age of Miracles as they dealt with the inevitable. More music, this time Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden, flooded my head. Faced with “The Slowing” would we be able to keep our act together? People sometimes ask what you would do if you had three minutes to live. Or one last day? What if you knew the end was coming but you didn’t know when? It would be gradual and creeping.



I highly recommend The Age of Miracles. If you’re looking for planet-splitting, cataclysmic apocalyptic disaster then this isn’t the book for you. If you’re interested in an honest and guileless perspective on what people really value and how to decide the important things in life for however long we have left on this Earth, then this is a thought-provoking read.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Is Your Glass Half Full or Half Empty? #ASMSG

Last summer we received my son’s school report. End of Year 4 in the primary school, he was ten years old. His marks per subject were pretty much what we had grown to expect – very strong academically, just about getting by in activities. However, the overall commentary from the teacher came as a bit of a shock. He was labelled as something of a sociopath (my word, not the teacher's) – "needs to be more tactful, is uncooperative, a loner". We thought this might have been mentioned during the school year, at PT meetings, in notes home to us, maybe even a phone call or an email, but it hadn’t.

I know my son pretty well. He’s a chip off the old block. Very attentive to detail, studious but impatient, strong with figures and language but reacts badly to criticism, mediocre at all sports - (focusses intently on one thing at a time), not too interested in investing energy in friendships. A bit of a lone ranger. Well, as they say here in Ireland, he didn’t lick it off the stones. He and I, we may well both be somewhere on a behavioural spectrum but life has been, is and will continue to be good. After a few minutes of “that’s my boy” we went hunting for his report for the previous year.

The individual subject performance was virtually identical, although it had been a different teacher. The overall commentary was full of positivity, encouragement and hope. Strangely it said exactly the same thing as this year. Except for last year’s teacher the glass had been half full. This year’s teacher was a glass half empty character. We asked our son what his opinion was of this year's teacher versus last: “She didn’t like me, the one this year. Last year’s teacher was much nicer.”

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ruby Reviews Frog Music by Emma Donoghue #ASMSG

 

“Woman’s Mania for Wearing Male Attire Ends in Death.”

 

A couple of years ago when I read Room by this author I was traumatised. It wasn’t a feel good book – claustrophobic but gripping. Misery lit fiction. So I was apprehensive when a colleague suggested Frog Music as my next read.

I needn’t have worried. The author’s own pre-release description of Frog Music was historical fiction based on the true story of a murdered 19th century cross-dressing frog catcher. Sufficiently far away from misery lit and weird enough to tickle my fancy, but Frog Music is much more than that teaser suggests.

1876 San Francisco is the setting – a society so different to the modern world that it completely transports the reader. The overwhelming impression is raw cosmopolitan, people flooding into a thriving city from the rest of the globe. The California gold rush is history but has left a legacy of wealth, instant gratification, disappointment and beggars. San Francisco swarms with new Americans, most notably French, Prussians and Chinese. Law and order’s grip on daily life is as tenuous as the stability of the wooden city buildings that shudder with each movement of the Earth’s crust and burn to the ground through accident or riot. Rampant smallpox adds a large dose of carpe diem to the behaviour of the residents. Donoghue paints all this perfectly.

Blanche Beunon is our narrator, a young French circus performer who has found a talent for entertainment of a more adult nature. She lives in comfort thanks to her earnings but shares a bohemian lifestyle with two male former acrobats that sinks frequently into depravity. Looking over Blanche’s shoulder, the reader is in a safer place than Room, but the plot has a train wreck trajectory from the first chapter.

This tragic story is delivered in third person, present tense but the timeline alternates either side of the blood-soaked first few pages in order to explain how things came to that fateful event and to lead to the eventual resolution of whodunnit. Once or twice I had to recap in order to be sure whereabouts the story had got to, but the delivery worked well overall.

There are very few wise people in Frog Music. With the exception of old Maria with her destroyed face, all the characters display different facets of naivety. Blanche is very worldly in her work environment and doesn’t lack confidence but she is naive in the belief that her acrobatic ménage of a lifestyle can continue once the complications of adult responsibilities ensue. The other characters are similarly in denial of their mortality and cavort with abandon in the face of disease, dishonesty and debauchery.

The catalyst to this crucible of San Francisco is Jenny Bonnet the cross-dressing frog catcher. A fascinating character, Jenny has a massive impact upon everyone in the book but (and no real spoiler here) she is killed off in the first four pages. She understands the rules of life and death better than anyone, but is no more able to avoid her own demise. Had she stayed alive throughout the book and then died towards the end it may have been unbearable. As it stands, the author breathes life into Jenny’s character and Frog Music is as much a eulogy to Jenny Bonnet as it is a journey of self-discovery for Blanche Beunon.

Witty, fast-paced and intricate, Frog Music leads the reader a merry dance. Sometimes I wanted to laugh, to cry and other times to take a long hot shower to cleanse the depraved filth of the Californian heat wave from my pores. Donoghue’s cast act in ways that delight, titillate and infuriate but their behaviour and attitudes are logical in the final scheme of things. The many skeletons in the cupboard eventually manifest themselves, the highest impact being caused by the smallest of them, P’tit. As different as this is to Room in so many ways, the hub of Donoghue’s FrogMusic is once again a small child.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Summer Reads Make Me Feel Fine #ASMSG #Giveaway


Blowing through the jasmine in my mind (as Seals & Crofts and the Isley Brothers put it).
Marble City Publishing has three new releases this summer and they’re offering a giveaway to celebrate. Register for their newsletter and you can choose any one of Marble's existing e-book titles for free!
Also, because Marble hate those ads that offer a great new deal to new subscribers but tough luck to existing customers, all existing newsletter followers can also get one of Marble’s titles for free. Just click through as if registering and then update your profile to choose your e-book.
And here, in brief, are those three new releases:

cover for The Sadness of Angels by Jim Williams

The Sadness of Angels is a new release from Booker-nominated Jim Williams. An epic science fiction fantasy, first part of an upcoming trilogy. Beautifully written, captivating and lyrical. Read more about The Sadness of Angels on Amazon.

cover for Twelve Curious Deaths in France

Twelve Curious Deaths in France is Marble City’s first release from Emmy-nominated screenwriter John Goldsmith. A novel length collection of outstanding stories. Do miracles really happen? Did Voltaire rise from the dead? Is our fate predestined? Are sex toys dangerous? The answers are to be found in this remarkable collection. Includes how-to advice on a number of topics: delivering practical jokes from beyond the grave; how best to murder an African despot; the secret of the world’s best rabbit stew. From fantastic to factual, contemporary to historical, a mix of comedy, drama, intrigue and suspense. Twelve Curious Deaths in France is available on Amazon.

cover for Edge of Passion anthology

Edge of Passion is Marble's 2014 anthology of crime, mystery, suspense and romance. Twenty-one stories from nineteen authors, including Emmy-nominated John Goldsmith and Booker-nominated Jim Williams.
This global collection from 400 to 7000 words covers everything from crime fiction to romantic suspense and historical mystery.
Authors: John Goldsmith, Jim Williams, Jeremy Hinchliff, John Holland, Gerry McCullough, Alexandar Altman, R.A. Barnes, Maura Barrett, Eileen Condon, Mary Healy, Susan Howe, Damon King, Mary Mitchell, Jeanne O’Dwyer, Michael Rumsey, Valerie Ryan, Dennis Thompson, Catherine Tynan and T. West.
Edge of Passion is available on Amazon.

This post is reblogged from Marble City Publishing