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Monday, 21 April 2014

Review: Brewster

Author: Mark Slouka


Release date: UK paperback 6th March 2014
Genre: Contemporary / Coming-of-age story / Bildungsroman
Target audience: Adult
UK Publisher: Portobello Books

Review:

Brewster is a raw coming-of-age story. Set in the late 1960s in the USA, it’s a story of growing up in a small town. It’s about boys becoming men, it’s about finding your identity and it’s about the pain we live through. This is a hard review to write because this book is so good. It moved me. It kind of haunts me. It has a power all of its own.


Jon is the protagonist and he tells the story. I guess he’s looking back and recounting this time in his life. A time when his life felt anything but liberated. It’s a story of a friendship between two boys both with family troubles. Ray sees a quality in Jon which he recognises and though they never talk about it, they become friends. They walk the streets in winter. They sit by the lake in summer. Jon is recruited to join the track team. He runs. It lets him conquer pain. It gives him a purpose. Ray sits in the bleachers and watches. But periodically Ray disappears for days at a time. He comes back bruised with stories of illicit boxing matches and girls he fought tough guys over. And Jon expects nothing less of Ray. He’s the hard man. He’s dangerous and everyone at school knows it.


Jon tells the story retrospectively jumping around sometimes as he remembers different moments of those few years. I guess it doesn’t sound like much happens here. But it does as much as it can in a small town and in a country which is at war with Vietnam and it the midst of the summer of love.


I happen to read a review of Brewster in the Sunday Times Culture magazine and it stood out. I love coming-of-age stories and this one sounded right up me street. I wrote the name of the author and the title down. Then maybe two weeks later, I popped into the public library to collect something I’d reserved and I spotted it on the way out. It seemed serendipitous. I must have been meant to read this book.



It’s the sort of book you could read more than once. I need to get my own copy now because I know I’ll want to read it in years to come. It’s brutally emotive. There’s no doubt about it, this book will be a modern classic. Brewster is an outstanding piece of literature and above all, a moving story of the pain of growing up. Read it.


Source: Borrowed from the public library

Friday, 18 April 2014

Review: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

Author: Simon Mawer


Release date: UK paperback 9th May 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction / Spy novel
Target audience: Adult
Publisher: Little Brown

Review:
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is a spy story. Secrets, betrayals, multiple identities, they’re all here.
Marian Sutro is a young woman who is part English, part French and is recruited by a mysterious British secret service organisation for her skill in languages. Immediately Marian knows that she’ll sign herself over to them; she’s the sort of girl who enjoys risk.


I read this book very quickly and I did enjoy it. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Code Name Verity. The subject matter is incredibly similar. But that was a more literary take on spying than The Girl who Fell from the Sky which is more of an easier but less dramatic read.


Marian Sutro is an interesting character. She recognises that she has more than one identity and that she is essentially playing at being a spy. She takes on many different roles – she is a lover, comforter, daughter, sister, friend, and ultimately, she is a spy. She undergoes rigorous training in rugged Scotland and then she parachutes into France to complete the work she’s been prepped for. But nothing can really prepare her for the risks she’ll face.


Though this was easy to read, it is also easy to forget. There isn’t really anything new in this book. It doesn’t have a unique voice or anything that stands out to add to the subject matter. I’m not a particular fan of spy thrillers and I wouldn’t have read this if it wasn’t a book chosen for the staff book group.


I liked that fact that the ending was fitting of the story and of Marian. Overall, not a bad read but it certainly won’t stay with me.


Source: Bought from WH Smith.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Review: The Last Runaway

Author: Tracy Chevalier

Release date: UK Paperback 29th August 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Target audience: Adult
Publisher: HarperCollins

Review:
The Last Runaway is a journey into the new world - a journey from 1850s England to America across the ocean. It’s about principles and freedom to act on those principles. This historical novel swept me away and I found myself picking it up at every opportunity. It was a pleasure to read.


When Honor’s sister Grace decides to emigrate to America to marry, Honor thinks that this is her chance for a new life too. Having been recently jilted and her betrothed expelled from the Quaker community, she feels embarrassed and self-conscious in her small community.


Honor and Grace take the long journey by boat to America but when they arrive their dream is far from coming true. Grace soon takes ill and Honor is left to make a new life for herself alone. She travels many miles across America to reach Ohio and there, she must find a way to begin again.
Honor’s story was a touching and honest. She is constantly comparing life in America to her home back in England. Everything from the food to the way people speak. She has to learn to accept many differences and find a sense of belonging in this new frontier.


Not only was this story well told and well plotted. It was educational too. I felt I learnt a lot about Quakers. I didn’t really know anything about the religion before I read this book. I also learnt much about how the Quakers opposed slavery in the 1850s. I liked how the author explored the ways the different characters responded to the issue. Honor wants to help the slaves escape America and find their freedom in Canada. Other characters do the same. But her Quaker husband and his family are not so ready to help despite it being part of their beliefs that all men are equal in the eyes of God.


I can’t write this review without mentioning the patchwork quilts which Honor is so talented at making. I loved all the references to sewing and her particular skills. The way she collected little scraps of cloth from garments that had a meaning to her was really touching.


I read this book for our parent book group at school and I’m so glad I did. I would never have picked it up otherwise and I really enjoyed everything about it: the tone, the description, the exploration of beliefs and principles. The Last Runaway was an accessible, moving and enjoyable read.



Source: Borrowed from the public library

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Winner announced: Divergent Premiere tickets

It's the news you've all been waiting for!

The winner of the pair of Divergent Premiere tickets is:

Helen Butt

Congratulations! 

Don't worry if you missed out. Get down to Leicester Square early on the weekend as the publishers we will also be giving out a limited number of premiere tickets to fans on both days!

On Saturday March 29th and Sunday March 30th Leicester Square will be transformed into the dystopian world of DIVERGENT, where fans will be invited to undergo initiation tests and, like Tris Prior, choose where they belong. Would you survive in Dauntless? Fans will be put through their paces with Dauntless training to see if you are brave enough to join their faction!

The Divergent Fan Experience Timings

Saturday March 29th
11.00am – 6.00pm

Sunday March 30th
11.00am – 12.00pm
3.00pm – 6.00pm

Premiere timings

Sunday March 30th
Doors open – 1.30pm
Doors close – 2.30pm
Film starts 3.00pm

DIVERGENT is released April 4th

FB handle: DivergentUK
Twitter: @Divergentmovie
#Divergent

Thanks to everyone who entered.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

WIN: A pair of tickets to the Divergent Premiere

THE OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME AWAITS...

Read on!

Attend the EUROPEAN PREMIERE!

On Saturday March 29th and Sunday March 30th Leicester Square will be transformed into the dystopian world of DIVERGENT, where fans will be invited to undergo initiation tests and, like Tris Prior, choose where they belong. Would you survive in Dauntless? Fans will be put through their paces with Dauntless training to see if you are brave enough to join their faction!

But that’s not all – I have a pairs of tickets for the European premiere of DIVERGENT at Odeon Leicester Square on the Sunday at 1.30pm, attended by stars of the film Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Kate Winslet! So not only can you discover the world for yourself, you can walk the red carpet, mingle with the stars and watch the film before it’s released in the UK!

Enter here for your chance to win this once in a lifetime experience! If you aren’t lucky this time, you are still in with a chance - get down to Leicester Square early as we will also be giving out a limited number of premiere tickets to fans on both days!

The Divergent Fan Experience Timings

Saturday March 29th
11.00am – 6.00pm

Sunday March 30th
11.00am – 12.00pm
3.00pm – 6.00pm

Premiere timings

Sunday March 30th
Doors open – 1.30pm
Doors close – 2.30pm
Film starts 3.00pm

DIVERGENT is released April 4th

FB handle: DivergentUK
Twitter: @Divergentmovie
#Divergent


To enter the competition, complete this form

All entries must be submitted by 6.00 pm Wednesday 26th March 2014

The winner will be announced here on Thursday 27th March.

Good luck!