Did you know Frogs rule the universe?

Falling Sideways by Tom Holt

Holt’s fiction is…befuddling. From the moment you start reading, you’re not sure whether to be amused or confused. Certainly bemused.

David Perkins bumbles his way into a police station, an outcome he is sure has been orchestrated by the band of clone brothers who seem to be just about everywhere. From there he accidentally stumbles onto the discovery that frogs rule, quite literally.

And why is he in the mess? Because of a painting, a lock of hair and a centuries-old love story of course!

After being forced to not only question his identity, species and his very existence David finds himself resigned to kissing 6000 frogs.

Holt is an imaginative, unique writer whose baffling logic scarily makes more sense than it ought. As long as you don’t try to think it through for too long, otherwise you’ll get a headache.

If you enjoyed ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ (and if you haven’t read it you should) you’ll enjoy Tom Holt’s style of twisted humour. Definitely a book which causes a dazed far-out smile to appear on your face every time you think of it or and try to unravel the riddle of the plot, its laugh-out-loud humour stays with you.

 

Phoenix Child – a review

Phoenix Child by Alica McKenna-Johnson

I came by this self-published author via hpfandom, where her story ‘Gypsy Caravan’ was one of the top ten. I’ve gone off fanfiction sites now but amongst the immature often cliche-in-a-roll-your-eyes sort of way a few gems hide. Alica is one of these rare authors who deserves recognition, ‘Gypsy Caravan’ was an original and captivating read. From there I came by Alica’s blog and saw she had an e-book so I downloaded it onto my kindle, from Amazon. A spontaneous buy really 🙂

Phoenix Child is a gentle tale with engaging characters from different cultures. Contains clear echoes of ‘Gypsy Caravan’s’ eclectic mix of original, diverse characterisations. On the surface some seem too perfect, images of dream-like people, but then, this adds to the magic of their gifts. Their interactions show they are just like us despite the flawless, beautiful exteriors Alica’s characters enjoy.

As well as the more super natural/fantasy elements Alica delicately and effectively depicts the struggles of a young teenager brought up in the care system and is reluctant to leave and face the uncertainty of family.

Since Phoenix Child is primarily a work of fantasy where a young girl strives to accept her ‘destiny’. As such, I see this book as one which would have enthralled me a few a years ago, more than it does today. I’m not certain what age group Alica planned to target but I feel this book is one teenaged children would enjoy more than their parents. The plot is very well-developed and is interspersed with cute messages from the girl’s mother. These are a great addition as they bring the story together and it is through these that the reader becomes more connected with the characters and gives the story a spiritual edge, enhancing the appeal I feel. A very good read.

Beatrix Potter

Linda Lear tells the story of Beatrix Potter and how the engaging little characters she created came to be. Lear brings the Victorian woman behind the children’s books to life in her captivating biography, Beatrix Potter: The extraordinary life of a Victorian genius.

I’ve seen the film Miss. Potter (2006), which starts with her in her 30s, and I found her to be a slightly odd, eccentric, lonely plain woman. However, I am glad to say Lear effectively dispels these assumptions as she portrays an attractive image of an ambitious Victorian genius confined by society. Not in the least dotty, as she appears in Miss. Potter directed by Chris Noonan.

Lear displays the life of a wealthy Victorian woman as Beatrix suffers from boredom and uselessness. There is a real sense of sorrow for a lost childhood and a seemingly empty future for Beatrix as a teen. She has no independence and feels crushed under her domineering mother. In her 20s Beatrix searches for self-worth and direction, which makes me glad to be living in the 21st century.

If you’re interested in the development of science, especially in the Victorian era may also learn a lot from this biography as it details Beatrix’s experiments and struggles in a mans world. Although it wasn’t unusual for women of that time to dabble in amateur botany Beatrix was held back by the prejudices exhibited by Victorian men. However, for others the long chapters focused mainly on botany may become tedious, although they are interesting to read for a while. It appears this passion for nature and science gave a sense of purpose and achievement to Beatrix’s life, and her discoveries are evident in her children’s tales, particularly the drawings. Lear instills true respect for a lady who studied the natural world in such accurate detail that some scientific drawings are still used today to classify fungi.

Stick with it and you shall be rewarded with the fascinating tale of how The Tale of Peter Rabbit came to be published, among many other classic favourites. Lear goes further and describes Beatrix’s personal losses and gains (both animal and human), creating an accurate image of a Victorian woman who becomes almost rebellious in later life yet retains a sense of duty both to family and the natural world that so captivated her.

This biography is very well researched. Lear’s writing is fabulous, smoothly incorporating quotes from letters and other sources, seamlessly creating an image of Beatrix’s life, which closely impacted upon her work. As well as educating the modern reader, Lear transports you back to your childhood with passages dedicated to the little books so admired by people everywhere. “I have just made stories to please myself because I never grew up!” p.426.

Lear shows how remarkable Beatrix Potter really was. Her later life is a joy to read as it lacks the purposelessness of her younger days. She transforms into an intelligent, determined, resourceful woman with exacting standards, especially when it comes to the publishing of her books. Her unrivalled realism through the wars and her ailing health did nothing to dampen her spirits or prevent her from continuing to be an active member of the farm as well as the preservation and conservation of the Lake district, even into her 70s. She would certainly be delighted to know her legacy continues and the beauty of the lakes remains.

It is a surprisingly easy, captivating read, even for those who do not usually read biographies (like me). Lear is a fabulous writer and her passion shines through as she incorporates the well-known and well-loved aspects of Beatrix’s life along with her private connections and interests. If one wishes to learn about Beatrix Potter, this is the only book to turn to.A true story of a modest woman who touches the heart of the world with her “pretty little books” written with a fluent, honest hand. A must read.

One Day by David Nicholls

I was going to post this yesterday but then realised the importance of the 15th of July to this book. So decoupage boxes was yesterday and this is today:

One Day was given to me by my best friend last November when I was in hospital. It follows the lives of two people by detailing where they are and what they’re doing on the 15th July 1988 and every year after that for twenty years. I was quite intrigued by this idea, I wonder what my life would look like from this perspective?

Anyway, although Marian Keys describes it as an “incredibly moving” story I was somewhat disappointed. I began reading with high expectations (perhaps that clouded my judgement) as I knew it had been made into a film, although it was only after reading it that I noticed the reviews generally weren’t positive. It begins rather simply with two new graduates messing around together one night and continues with the various successes and failures of their lives as they move forwards individually.

Involving a lost love letter along the way, Nicholls injects comedy into his writing. The main bulk of the book is entertaining and captivating but it is the end which lets it down. I found the events of the last couple of chapters annoyingly predictable which negated some of the emotive subject matter. In fact I would have enjoyed the book a lot more and even recommended it if I had forgotten to read the last part.

Nicholls does write an absorbing tale through an orginal format, so perhaps I am being too harsh as my disappointment did not appear until the end and thus colours my view. I don’t wish to reveal why the end let it down in case you wish to read it. I suppose it is personal annoyance and some others may enjoy the ending twist or may not see it coming, in which case Nicholls achieves a moving climax. Unfortunately, it isn’t for me and I’m in no hurry to watch the film.

Katie Fford: the perfect summer read

There’s nothing better than sitting in the garden, under the sun, with a good book. After a hectic week at work, or school, or perhaps both, a good read is necessary. However, more often than not the brain shuts down at the weekend, causing the complex meanings and motives behind a mystery drama or action thriller to simply pass you by, leaving the reader more confused and tired than ever.

Therefore, an alternative must be found. For me, every year I read a few of Katie Fford’s romance novels, books which have been described as “top-drawer romantic escapism” by You Magazine and “a funny, fresh and lively read” by Heat. Katie Fford has the ability to create, arguably ordinary, characters and still form a sense of intrigue so that the reader becomes hooked. So much so that one book can be finished in a day or two, or a few evenings if you’re busy. Using normal, recognisable characters increases the appeal as it is very easy to become convinced something similar could also change your life for the better. Perhaps a mysterious stranger, or an old flame.

Despite being able to pick out the ‘hero’ of the hour in most of the blurbs, as can be achieved with many gentle romances, Katie Fford writes to hold the reader in suspense as to when the heroine is going to come to her senses until the very end.

Brief Biography: “Katie Fford lives Gloucestershire with her husband and some of her three children. Recently her old hobbies of ironing and housework have given way to singing, Flamenco dancing and husky racing. She claims this keeps her fit.”

A quick over view of some of my favourites:

  1. Thyme Out: Perdita runs into her ex-husband in the most unlikely of places; a kitchen. When they were married neither of them could boil an egg (which was part of their problem), so how come Lucas is being groomed as the next celebrity chef? Life become even more complex when Kitty, her 87-year-old friend, has a stroke. Is Lucas really the villain, or is he the pillar Perdita needs to lean on?
  2. Wedding Season: Sarah is a very successful wedding planner, who doesn’t believe in love. Unfortunately, she finds herself organising two weddings, for the same day, in only two months time. Luckily, she has a small team of tried and trusted friends willing to help take the strain. Elsa, a shy dress designer, and Bron, a multi-talented hairdresser. All three women are rushed off their feet and don’t have much time to contemplate their own love lives. Or do they?
  3. Artistic Licence: Thea, tired of looking after a houseful of students, runs off to Ireland with Rory, a charming but feckless artist. The arrival of Molly, her bossy but well-meaning friend; Thea’s most annoying lodger, Petal; and her uncle Ben, a man who Thea swears she will never like brings reality into the beautiful, content land of Ireland.

Well worth a space in your suitcase.

Seven Pounds: Will Smith

“In seven days God created the world. And in seven seconds I shattered mine.” – Seven Pounds (2008)

Yesterday my brother was doing his PRE (Philosophy, Religion and Ethics) homework and said he needed a film which had moral implications. After suggesting Seven Pounds and trying to remember what exactly what happened we decided to put it on.

Will Smith stars as Ben Thomas, a man who is trying to redeem himself after causing a terrible catastrophe, ruining several lives. He chooses seven people who he believes deserve a second chance and plans to help them. However, after developing feelings for one girl, whose life is in the balance, he must decide whether he should reveal his secret or continue with his original intentions.

The first time I watched it, Seven Pounds was a bit confusing as the scenes flashed between Ben’s life before and after the accident. At the time, as I remember it, it wasn’t clear what had happened to cause the torrent of guilt and the drive for redemption, however, it remained a powerful and moving experience as the story becomes apparent by the end.

This film certainly shows Will Smiths’ acting at its best, he displays real emotion for each decision he makes and causes the audience’s emotions to fly with him. Though Seven Pounds is not a happy film, it ends on a joyful, inspiring and hopeful note as Ben succeeds in bringing new life and opportunities for the chosen seven.

As well as being an excellent film, Seven Pounds is also a thought-provoking experience as it raises questions and moral issues over who has the right to decide who deserves life, death or a second chance. Ben Thomas tests his chosen seven to see if they are kind enough to be worthy of his help, but should that really be his decision? Who is he to condemn a person to a life of poor health just because there is someone else who he sees as a more worthwhile subject?

Anyway, moral issues aside Seven Pounds is an absorbing, captivating film; perfect for an afternoon with your feet up. My advise would be to watch it with a comforting cup of tea and a box of tissues.