Monday, 23 December 2013

The Feathered Man - Jeremy de Quidt


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 I thought that this book was translated from possibly German, but I now find that in fact the author is from the UK.  He has a nice scarey turn of phrase, though! 
Set a couple of centuries ago, in a small middle European town, the toothpuller steals a diamond from the mouth of a dead man.  His little runner, Klaus sees this, and this starts a dreadful tale of dead bodies, ghosts from the past, bad people, good people turned bad, a manevolent tale indeed!

Klaus is a small boy, but not young enough not too realise the worth of the diamond, but of course others know the worth of it too, and several deaths occur before that diamond reaches its final resting place.  Priests are not what they seem, dead men come alive, tattoos on bodies move, and throughout all of this, Klaus attempts to keep his mouth shut about what he knows; and Liesel, a kind girl, treated badly by her mistress, wants him to give up on the diamond, and to get out of trouble.  She could not save her own brother, but she wants desperately to save this little boy.

At first, this dark tale brought to mind Grimms' Fairy Tales, but as I read on, I got to thinking about old fashioned real adventure stories like Treasure Island.  No holds barred in the Urrgh! stakes with some awfully gruesome descriptions, so I imagine that this is a good one for older children or young adults to enjoy. But please don't let me put adults off.... Horrible and exciting!

Monday, 16 December 2013

The Prankster - James Polster


The Prankster: A Novella 
 109 pages of sci-fi joy! The Prankster is Pom Trager, a celeb back there on his home planet. He travels through time, changing history on Earth for a TV programme. Who knew that the Egyptians were planning to inter their Pharoahs in square buildings until the Prankster showed them how good a pyramid looked? When a new sponsor drops in the watch the latest programme being made, things start to go wrong for Trager, currently in 21st century America, and it looks as though a rescuer will have to be sent to get him. 

Money and fame is everything, especially to Trager, desperate to get back to his own planet, and fame and fortune - until life throws him something he had never thought of.

James Polster is a film producer as well as a writer, and this little novella certainly reads like a film I wouldn't mind seeing. Poking fun at all that reality and celebrity TV stuff, Polster has nailed it. 


Monday, 9 December 2013

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock - Matthew Quick



Leonard Peacock is looking forward to his eighteenth birthday; because then he can shoot his ex-best friend and then himself. His mother has moved out of the family home and gone to work in New York, his father, an ancoholic, hasn't been seen for years. His ex-best friend Asher seems to be at the root of the problem, but it takes most of the book before you'll find out why.... Leonard thinks that there is no-one out there who gives a damn about him, so really, he'll be better off dead, but of course there are people who care, as there always are. His Holocaust class teacher, Herr Silverman cares, for one - and it is Herr Silverman's idea of writing letters from someone in your future life that just may make Leonard change his mind.

A very odd little novel, but one I couldn't stop reading. I didn't want an eighteen year old boy to kill himself or anyone else, and there was so much angst in his young life it was difficult to see how he could find a way out of his troubles. It's always fascinating when an author takes on another persona. Did Matthew Quick dig deep into his own memory bank to find the things that made Leonard so believable? Whatever he did, I believe he got it right. He made me worry about Leonard, he made me think that if he got old enough to look back he might do it with a wry smile, and it made me hope that Leonard could not pull the trigger.

This is the second book by Quick I have read that deals with problems that come with poor mental health (The Silver Linings Playbook was the first), and I liked them both. Aimed, perhaps, at older Young Adults, any age that needs to understand why some people just cannot say what is wrong can read this with confidence. You know, those among us who, when asked "what's wrong?", just can't put it into words - and that has happened for most of us at some time.

Odd and quirky - I liked it.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Random Acts of Kindness......

Read a post on an American blog about encouraging kids to do these random acts of kindness.... but someone did one to us this week, and she didn't know she'd done it .....

We were doing a small amount of supermarket shopping this week, and there was a special offer on rotisserie chickens at only £1.21.  A good price for a quick lunch and plenty left over for another meal and a share with the cats.  When Mr Mac got to his place at the counter, no more left, now priced at £5 plus.  It's not that we can't afford that price, but I can knock up a lunch for much less than that, and it was only the bargain price that had caught Mr Mac's eye in the first place!  So a quick no thank you and he continued on his way.

A quick tug at his sleeve came next.  The lady who had bagged the last cheap chicken said "have this one, I live on my own and I will be eating it for days - I was only attracted by the knock-down price!"  Mr Mac tried several times to say no, but she insisted and went on her way smiling - he brought the chicken over to me, and we had a lovely hot chicken lunch with some crusty bread, with lots left for other things.  THANKS that lady!!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Mistress Masham's Repose - T H White




T H White was the author of The Once and Future King which is much better known than this book, first published in 1947 and out of print for a while.  It was certainly available in the late '60s when it was issued as one of Penguin's Peacock books for older children .  I had never read it before but it crossed my path in a new edition from 1998 with a forward by children's writer Anne Fine who tells us that this was her favorite read as a child.

Imagine that some of the Lilliputians from Gullivers Travels were actually transported back to England by a sailor with an eye to making money.  Imagine that they escaped and found their way to the island of Mistress Masham's Repose, in the middle of an ornamental lake in the grounds of a moldering country house somewhere in the English Midlands.  In this house lives ten year old Maria, parents dead, with her governess and the cook for company.    The governess is very thick with the local vicar, and it is not long before the reader comes to the conclusion that the governess and the vicar are not only in cahoots, but are a pair of rogues who are after Maria's money - not that she knows there is any!  But when Maria, out one day getting away from homework and the governess, discovers a way through the bramble surrounding the shore of the island, she is in for a great surprise.  For there, past the brambles, is a beautifully manicured green with a small doric temple in the middle.  And there, inside the columns, in the foundations and up in the roof, the Lilliputians live and conduct their lives, more by night than by day for fear of discovery.
Maria has to learn several things on her journey and whilst not moralistic in the least, T H White made sure that there was a moral to this story!  Do the vicar and the governess get their 
comeuppance?  It's certainly touch and go for a while there - and   Maria also has a lot to learn whilst working her was through a very grand adventure.  The book is full of Greek references, long words, things that go over your head, but it doesn't matter a jot (you can always look 'em up later!), just go with it and enjoy Maria's adventure with her.
I enjoyed reading this book slowly - it's only 158 pages - and whilst I have shown the cover of the paperback edition here, I read a hardback version with lovely coloured illustrations by Martin Hargreaves, and if you are going to read this to, or with a child, it would certainly be worth looking out for this one, as there is a "map" of the country estate of Malpaquet House, Maria's home, and some other lovely full page illustrations.