18 May 2018

BEYOND THE ARCH.


BEYOND THE ARCH by DAVID EVERED.


A provocative challenge at a dinner party, a serendipitous encounter on a Northumberland cliff top, the accidental death of a friend and the rupture of his marriage converge to disrupt Peter Bowman's well-ordered middle-class existence as he approaches middle age.

Peter negotiates a sabbatical from his job as a solicitor to pursue his long held ambition to write fiction. He embarks on an odyssey which leads him to new challenges and loves shaped by happiness and tragedy.

 When Peter goes to France to stay with Sally, an enigmatic freelance journalist with a troubled past, he takes the first tentative steps towards writing a novel. But can he, as a member of the pre-baby boomer generation, ever fully escape from the constraints imposed by his background and upbringing and embrace the liberal and permissive attitudes of the 1960s and achieve his lifelong ambition?
- Back Cover Blurb

Ann's parting injunction as he had left for work that morning could not have been clearer.
- First Sentence, Chapter 1

Ann's father's condition had stabilised and he remained in that grey and uncertain clinical no-man's-land, neither well enough to leave hospital nor yet sufficiently ill to cause immediate concern to his family or medical attendants.
- Memorable Moment, Page 34

SOURCE ... Received with thanks from the author.

READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... No.

MY THOUGHTS ... Not what I thought of as a complex plot, this is very much a character driven. What I described to a fellow reader as a coming-of-(middle)age drama; the main character being, not the usual suspect, but rather a middle-aged man. 

A character I'm sure many of us will relate to ... if not indeed identify with on a more personal level. Beyond The Arch's Peter is the type of person for whom, the so called Swinging-Sixties never having existed, is feeling a certain lack of fulfilment; a lack of fulfilment that if fulfilled, others might think of as foolish; of him acting on a whim. 

Meandering with a decidedly melancholy air. Arguably dense of dialogue (my goodness how the author likes his long sentences); some of it inconsequential, much of it fairly stilted. All things that in other circumstance might have irritated me greatly, here they somehow seemed fitting, giving the reader a great sense of, well, Peter.

Definitely one worth sticking with if you are interested in people. After the first few chapters I found myself enchanted by the characters; totally engrossed in their relationships, intrigued by where life would take them but, most of all, longing to know if Peter would break free of those dratted perceived chains and find fulfilment.


16 May 2018

RAGS TO RAGS.




Cas Amato is a first time author. He is not a celebrity, not rich nor otherwise extraordinary. He is just an ordinary guy, living an ordinary life, and yet, he decides to write his autobiography. Initially, he wonders why he is doing it, and who could possibly be interested in reading such a work. Nevertheless, he sits down and completes his story, concluding that it is there to be written, so why not just do it anyway. His family may think he's nuts, but that has never stopped him in the past. The end result is a rather quirky and tongue in cheek account of his life, his Italian culture, his successes and failures, and his travels, which have taken him to the far ends of the earth and back.
- Back Cover Blurb

To you, the reader, for what you are about to read, I thank you, and can only hope that this will be an interesting and pleasant experience for you.
- First Sentence, Ave Lector, Te Lecturum Salute

Outside, everyone was beginning to calm down, as my mother looked around for me. Then, it dawned on her. The baby (i.e. me) had been left inside! Cue mad panic again! However, within a few seconds of dreaded realisation, my uncle, Zio Ciccio (Francesco), appeared, baby in arms. He said, dryly, "Ti sei dimenticata qualcosa?" ("Did you forget something?")
- Memorable Moment, Page 101

SOURCE ... Received with thanks from the author.

READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... No.

MY THOUGHTS ... What a joyously nostalgic read. Yes, I too remember the days when all we had were three channels to watch.

Such a refreshing change.

It's true, you probably won't have ever come across the author, he isn't a celeb, just a normal guy with a story of everyday life - his life, the son of Italian immigrants, growing up in late 1960's England - to tell.  

Quirky definitely. I'm very much of the opinion that the author is one of life's story tellers. 

Rambling, yes. But somehow this only adds to the overall appeal, the spontaneity making it all the more natural; like having a good reminisce over a cuppa with an old friend you haven't seen in a while.



12 May 2018

WITCH HUNTERS: PROFESSIONAL PRICKERS, UNWITCHERS, & WITCH FINDERS OF THE RENAISSANCE.


WITCH HUNTERS: PROFESSIONAL PRICKERS, UNWITCHERS, & WITCH FINDERS OF THE RENAISSANCE by P.G. MAXWELL-STUART.


Witches looked and sounded like everyone else, so how could they be detected? This is the first history of the careers of those who believed they were able to identify a witch during the Renaissance - the great age of witch hunting.

Witch hunters were often respectable members of the community. Priest to judge, doctor to fraud, Peter Maxwell-Stuart charts the claims of these driven zealots, and provides an insight into the world which they perceived as evil and sought to expose. Whether the accused had tried to kill or cure by magic made little difference. It was all witchcraft.

From Pierre de Lancre, responsible for the burning of at least 600 suspected witches, to John Kincaid, professional pricker, the fascinating lives of these individuals are intimately explored.
- Inner Front Cover Blurb

Identifying a witch is not easy.
- First Sentence, Introduction

He then began to vomit. The objects taken from his mouth included the flap from a shepherd's breeches, flintstones, little balls of thread, long strands of hair, needles, strips of cloth and a peacock's feather. William blamed an unknown woman he had met by chance one day. She breathed on his face, he said, and thence came his demonic illness.
- Page 84/5, Patrick Morton: The Problem Of Demonic Possession.

SOURCE ... A charity shop buy.

READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... Yes.

  • Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2018; 5 of 12 books.

MY THOUGHTS ... Unlike many of the other books I've come across on this subject this concentrates not on Salem (though there is mention of it) so much as on incidents from across England and Scotland with a smattering from Europe.

Introducing six infamous individuals (Martin Del Rio, Pierre de Lancre, Battista Codronchi, Patrick Morton, John Kincaid and Elizabeth Jameson), chapter by chapter, individual by individual, the author touches on various topics including 'the problems of demonic possession' and 'implicating one's neighbours'.

What is essentially an interesting book. I may well have even rated it as more than OK if it wasn't for the fact that alas I found the writing stilted; as if, well, as if written for one of his lectures (the author is a history professor with what I believe is a special interest in this subject) which, don't get me wrong, delivered as a lecture (with perhaps some slides and maybe some 'audience' interaction), I think I'd have found it fascinating but, as it was, I found reading it a bit of a chore.


11 May 2018

BLACK RABBIT SUMMER.

BLACK RABBIT SUMMER by KEVIN BROOKS.


Pete Boland was busy doing nothing that summer. Long, stiflingly hot, lazy days stretched ahead of him.

Then she called.

It was Nicole.

'Listen, Pete. . . you know that funfair, up at the recreation ground...I thought we could all meet up...you know, for old times sake.'

But, where there are old times there are old tensions. And as secrets, bitterness and jealousies resurface, five old friends are plunged into the worst night of their lives. . .
- Back Cover Blurb

The summer of this story started for me on a hot Thursday night at the end of July, just as the sun was beginning to go down.
- First Sentence, Chapter One

I could feel it all again, thumping away in my heart - people screaming, sirens wailing, everything spinning ... whirling wheels, stars and spaceships, thousands of faces, a million booming voices swirling around in the air - HERE WE GO! EVERYONE'S A WINNER ... IT'S C-C-C-C-CRAZEE! - the lights burning my eyes, the crash of the rides rolling and ripping all around me - TERMINATOR! METEOR! TWISTER! FUN HOUSE! - throwing out madness into the night ...
- Memorable Moment, Page 252

SOURCE ... Ex-library stock.

READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... Yes.
  • What's In A Name?: 'A Season In The Title' category
  • Mount TBR Reading Challenge: 4 of 12 books. 
MY THOUGHTS ... Given that this was a bit of a slow starter with a bit of an 'meh' ending you may be surprised to learn that I actually really enjoyed it.

A part coming of age, part crime, novel with twists and turns galore. A tale about the chaos of adolescence, marketed at the teen/young adult market; (without giving too much away) its main characters are teenagers (the main protagonist a 'typical apathetic' teenager), there's a secret den, there's a fair ground, there's illicit drug taking, there's violence, there's the drinking of alcohol until you vomit. Things many young adults will have an understanding of and yet, hard hitting (the sense of menace is palpable, the kids from the 'estate' as frightening as any hitman), it may well surprise more mature readers just how much they will enjoy it ... after all a cracking murder mystery is a cracking murder mystery (and make no mistake Black Rabbit Summer is just that, a cracking murder mystery) no matter what the age of the characters/those the book is marketed at.

At the heart of the novel are five young people at that stage of life when, no longer children, and yet not quite adults, they would rather die than let their parents know what is going on in their lives. As mentioned, there's the apathetic Pete (the narrator of the story), then there's the 'joker', the tragic anti-hero; the good looking but 'moody' one with a secret; the 'object of every boy's desire' (or at least Pete's) and then there's ... well, there's Raymond.

Obsessed with his pet rabbit (the black rabbit of the title), - BE WARNED: along with the violence and other fairly 'grown-up' themes, there is animal cruelty  - Raymond, considered odd/'not all there', is a fascinating character. The very fact that there is no real conclusion to his fate my only real gripe with the book.