Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

My review of Bird Therapy

I recently came across a new book about birding which I quickly bought and read through over just a few days. Joe Harkness, a teacher who lives in England, struggled with mental health. This was until he took up birding more seriously. His book, simply called Bird Therapy, describes his journey from illness, including depression, to better health.

I won’t go into more detail here except to link you to my review on my birding site here.

If you want to read more about this project, I encourage you to check out the Bird Therapy Blog written by the author, Joe Harkness.

What I have been reading

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

I took a chance on this popular book and I am so pleased that I did.

Once you get through the first few pages, it is obvious that Eleanor is not completely fine. From a very protected and regimented routine, she learns to accept changes to her life, many of them imposed upon her. This adversely affects her with extreme challenges to every aspect of her rather sheltered life.

Eleanor’s social life is largely non-existent. Her only social contacts are at work in the accounts department of a large graphic design company. She keeps very much to herself and rarely has contact with anyone on weekends, except while shopping. Her solitary weekends are spent alone with two large bottles of vodka to numb the pain of her self imposed social isolation, as well as the memories of a painful childhood.

When she has problems with her work computer she meets the company IT specialist Raymond. He is her complete opposite. She finds his eating habits repulsive, his dress sense totally lacking and his general lifestyle choices unfathomable. In a random act of care, they join forces to help elderly Sammy during a medical episode. From that point on their relationship blossoms into a close friendship.

Eleanor becomes infatuated with a musician who becomes the catalyst for her to undertake a complete makeover in her appearance. When a carefully planned encounter with the “man of her dreams” goes terribly wrong, Eleanor’s world crumbles to ruins around her. She tries to erase the pain through excessive drinking of vodka until Raymond comes to her rescue. At his insistence, she seeks medical help.

Through many sessions with a compassionate and understanding psychologist Maria Temple, Eleanor slowly confronts her horrific childhood memories. The focus of these sessions eventually helps Eleanor to distance herself from her cruel and obsessive “Mummy”.

Her extremely quirky nature reminded me so many times of Don Tillman (The Rosie Project). I very much enjoyed this novel and the twist at the end caught me by surprise.

Brilliantly written.

Highly recommended. I give it five stars.

A Great Book for Young Soccer Fans

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Birthday

A few days ago my grandson had his ninth birthday. He had previously made a long list of things he would like for his birthday. This sure helps old grandfathers like me in the selection process. I am usually quite hopeless in choosing appropriate gifts for family members.

Birthday list

One of the items on his list included books in the Tiny Timmy series written by Australian soccer star, Tim Cahill and co-written by Julain Gray. My grandson only had Book 1 in a six-book series. I read this book and I was very impressed. It has been many years since I read mostly children’s books. That was when I was a teacher/librarian and a classroom teacher in primary schools.

Tiny Timmy books

The book I read this last week was Tiny Timmy: Soccer Superstar. Being the first in the series, the protagonist Tim is mad keen on becoming a soccer star. He desperately wants to play on the school soccer team. There are just three main problems: he is smaller than his teammates, he is constantly teased by the other players, and the coach doesn’t pick him in the team. Tim is not discouraged, though even his attempts at being the team’s orange boy are disastrous.

Perseverance

Although the authors don’t use the word perseverance, this book shows young, enthusiastic soccer players that hard work, dedication and trying hard to improve will pay off. Little Timmy keeps practising and helping out until he discovers that he has a unique skill the other players do not possess.

Review

I loved this book. It is easy to read. It encourages young people to keep trying. It teaches children to stay focused on what they want to achieve. It is easy to read with appropriate illustrations on every page. The chapters are short and filled with action. I cannot find any information regarding how biographical these books are, and they are listed by the publisher as fiction. It doesn’t matter; they are great little books for anyone aspiring to improve in any endeavour, sporting or otherwise.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this book for readers ages 8 to 10, especially if they are keen to improve in any sport, not just soccer. I was so impressed with the first book in the series that I went and bought books 2 and 3 for my grandson. I think he was impressed.

Reference:

Cahill, Tim and Gray, Julian: Tiny Timmy: Soccer Superstar. Scholastic Australia, Sydney, 2015.

Book Review: The Golden Hour

novel about identity, trauma and transition

The Golden Hour by Claire Belberg

Stone Table Books, Northcote, Victoria, Australia, 2017.

And now for something different.

This is a novel with a fascinating plot – the story kept me intrigued and guessing until the very end. Sure, many other books have done that too, but this novel drew me in from page one and wouldn’t let me go. What was actually happening to the characters? What had happened to them?

James, a teenage computer hacker and graphic artist, is trapped inside a mysterious, windowless room. He has no idea how he got there. Two other occupants of the room have no idea how they also came to be in this surreal room. The story delves deeply into the fears, background, family and life of James, and how he relates to his companions. Attempts to escape appear futile – or are they?

This is a brilliantly written novel filled with a small cast of finely drawn characters. While the reader’s sympathies lie with the protagonist James, strongly portrayed through the author’s first person account, one is also drawn one minute to the other characters of Naomi and Eliza – and then almost immediately repulsed by them through their words, attitudes or actions.

It is hard to pigeon-hole this novel into a single genre. While there are some elements of fantasy, it does not sit comfortably there in my opinion. Is it a psychological thriller? Hardly – though there are many moments where the reader just has to keep turning the page. Possibly the closest one could get is to describe this novel as speculative fiction. It goes a long way to answering the ubiquitous writers’ question: “What if…?” What if you unexpectedly find yourself locked into a place or situation from which there was no hope of escaping? How would you react?

As something of an aside, as I read this novel I couldn’t help thinking of the characters in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.” The surreal nature of this novel would, in my opinion, translate well to the stage or possibly even the screen. The plot, dialogue and action are all dense, confronting and intense.

Highly recommended.

Launch: this novel is being launched tomorrow 21st June 2017 at 6:30 pm in the Blackwood Library, South Australia. RSVP ph: 8372 8255

Links:

Acknowledgement: special thanks to the author, Claire, for her friendship, encouragement and for a review copy.

Book review: Return to Me by Lynn Austin

Return to Me (#01 in The Restoration Chronicles Series)

Return To Me by Lynn Austin (Restoration Chronicles #1)

This was the first of Lynn Austin’s books I have read. It is the first of her trilogy in the Restoration Chronicles. Having read the first one, I am sure I will read the following two in the series. I am particularly interested in the third book which features the life of Nehemiah, one of my favourite people of the Bible. The book of Nehemiah is one of my favourites in all of the Bible.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and will probably read more of her works in the future. This book is a fictional account of the first group of Jews to return to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon. It is very true to the historical Biblical account.

The main character of the story is Zechariah. The plot follows his early life growing up in Babylon with all of the hardships endured there, including the pressures to conform to the social moralities of the Babylonian culture and religion, including astrology. The sudden change on the part of King Cyrus is greeted with great joy by the Jews in captivity, and plans are immediately made for them to return to Jerusalem to begin life anew in their home country. The author cleverly portrays the family conflicts which arise, with families being torn apart, some remaining in Babylon, with others leaving for the long journey home.

The reader is given an in-depth impression of the physical hardships endured on the journey and the subsequent struggles to establish themselves in Jerusalem and in the surrounding countryside. The author never shirks from also drawing out in depth the spiritual pressures placed upon this band of people, especially the constant exposure to the paganism and astrology of the neighbouring Samaritans. The stark contrasts between the Jewish faith and the faith of other people living near Jerusalem is explored in many ways in the novel.

Zechariah features prominently in this account. Towards the end of the story, we see him as the prophet whose book we read in the Old Testament. The author strongly portrays a young Zechariah in the early stages of his developing spirituality, and how he has a growing awareness of his special relationship with God. Austin never strays from showing the internal spiritual struggles of Zechariah, as well as his grandfather and mentor, Iddo.

I only have one little criticism: the frequent changes of point of view can take a little getting used to, but overall, this is a very well written and enjoyable account. The novel has one enduring strength: by being written as fiction, the author can draw each character in compelling and intriguing depth, while never losing sight of the facts of the historical foundations of the narrative.

Highly recommended.