Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Three Day Road - Joseph Boyden


It is not often that when I close a book I don't tell my partner if I liked it, and then give him a little synopsis.  This morning I closed a book and could not speak.

Despite having christian names, Xavier and Elijah are Canadian First Nation people.  As small children they were removed from their people and taken into a "proper" educational facility, to be taught to read, write and forget their tribal ways.  They remained close friends and joined the Canadian forces to cross the Atlantic and fight in WW1.  As first class hunters at home, they were soon given the job of snipers at the front, and from then on the reader is thrown into the visceral horror of the battlefield.  Readers' feeling are not spared, and if you are faint hearted, this book is not for you.

The two friends have many "kills" under their belt, but when one of them become addicted to morphine he becomes different - a better than ever shot with a kind of madness taking over.  How they deal with their place in the war and with each other as the horror mounts is not an easy read. But their story is intertwined by Xavier's aunt, his last family member, who has gone to meet a boy returned from the war and to take him home.  And so she relates to him stories of her childhood and his childhood, whilst she paddles the three day journey.

Perhaps I should not use the word recommend about this book even though for me it ranks as one of those books about war that everyone should read.  It is not "All Quiet On The Western Front"  - but as a description of how men cope (or not) with warfare, it is difficult not to recommend it.  And although we refer to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome these days as though it was always known of;  until very recently men who returned traumatised  from WW1 were referred to as shell shocked.  However, it is made very clear indeed in Three Day Road that it would be easy to go off the rails and become shell shocked.  War is hard, and life is harder still if you survive another day whilst living through it.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Mrs Mac Suggests - what to read in FEBRUARY

Well - we've got January over with - the longest month because it starts sometime shortly after Christmas!!  Hope you've read some good stuff - I have - and have a pile of "what to read next" somewhere handy.  February is a slightly shorter month (good), but it's the month of Spring Fever for me (bad), when I start to itch about getting out in the garden but it's just a wee bit early for that.  So of course, I fall back on a good book!

For February, let's read something slightly different.  I recently got a book for review, and so of course it has to be read pretty soon.  But I'm not asking you to review a book, just read something with a subject that is up to date and a wee bit different. 

A book that has AI (artificial intelligence) as a subject. 

The book I am going to read in February involves a piece of software needing to learn what makes humans happy:

Happiness for Humans  by P Z Reizin

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Unexpectedly, Milo - Mathew Dicks*

January has been a good reading month (rain, cold, repeat!), so I have spent much time curled up on the sofa in front of the woodburner - fitting in the odd spot of house cleaning between the good times!  Whilst I've read several books this month, this is only the third I have really wanted to tell you about.

Milo is a thirty plus man with an extreme and odd form of OCD.  Not in the way that most of us  imagine, either.  He does not turn lights on and off X number of times a day; he does not reclean the toilet bowl several times a day.  What he does is suffer compulsions.  The compulsion to unscrew a jam/jelly jar to hear the "plop" when the seal goes;  to score a strike at a bowling alley (even at 3.00 am); to sing 99 Red Balloons in the original German.  And he's unhappily married (or at least his wife of three years is - he wonders why she keeps asking for space).

When Milo moves out of the family home into a little apartment with the dog, he thinks it's only for the short-term.  Then, one day he finds a video camera and a set of tapes on an empty bench in the local park and takes them home to see if he can identify the owner from the content of the tapes.  What he finds is - well, read and find out for yourself, for Milo is going to make a big journey.  He is going to talk to people; he is going to make new friends, and who knows, maybe even get divorced along the way.  I really felt for Milo, keeping the secrets of his OCD from everyone - classmates, parents, wife, friends - but I just kept wondering why he was so worried.  I wanted to shout at him "just tell someone!".  But of course that's not how this condition works, is it?

A slow start, but do persevere, it is charming, funny and will make you understand OCD just a little better.

* Matthew Dicks is published as Matthew Green in the UK, as the publisher thought that the surname might make people shy to buy.... US readers - for dick read pecker.  Honestly!  We are all grownups here - and I am smiling!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Ther View On The Way Down - Rebecca Wait

We know, very near the start of the story that a boy is dead.  Not a small child, but someone in their late teens/early twenties.  We know there is a brother who left home the day of the funeral and has not returned.  We know that there is a younger sister, and parents who no longer know how to deal with each other following the death.  What we don't know, at the beginning, is how the boy died, and why his brother feels so guilty.  The truth of the matter is revealed in the middle section of the book in a series of letters from the remaining brother to his father. 

This book is a revelation to anyone who knows little of depression.  But if you do, you will know why Churchill called his depression "black dog".  If you have family and friends who suffer, you will have seen some of the results, and if you suffer from time to time yourself, you will understand.

The first few pages made me say "I don't like this book".  But I read on, and was soon enveloped in something so dark, so sad, and so heartwrenching that I couldn't stop until the end.  And when I did I was glad I had read it and wondered how the author could possibly have got the book out of her head and on to paper.  She reveals at the end of the book that she had a breakdown in her teens and later felt she had to write this book.  Harrowing, but recommended.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender - Leslye Walton

Blessings of all kinds for the New Year.  Glad to see you and hope that all is well in your part of the world.  My friend in Nova Scotia reports strange extremes of weather, and of course, sub-freezing temps.  Here in the English south west, we missed the last big snowfall, and whilst yesterday was grey and cold, today is only sunny and cold!  Hurray!

Well now, on to one of my first books of the year.   A book I bought only because of the cover bit fickle that, isn't it?).  And also because a bit of magic realism once in a while is not a bad thing, is it?  
Ava is the third generation of women with special powers.  She doesn't seem to have any, but as she was born with a set of wings perhaps that is enough.  The wings, by the way don't let her fly, they just are.
As she grows towards adolescence, life may get harder for her, even with the help of a friend who wants her to enjoy life as much as she does, even though Ava has those damned wings.  And then there is the new boy in town, and he rather fancies the look of those wings.  Ava is going to find that life can be harsh;  and love must be avoided if you are going to get through it.

Short, easy to ready but strange.  Then, what magic realism isn't|?  Perhaps you will like it too.


Early One Morning - Virginia Baily

I was attracted to this novel purely by the cover (as I suppose this is meant to happen!) and it has very little about the contents on the b...