Friday, 26 June 2020

The Lady with the Dog by Anton Chekov

"Then he looked at her intently, and all at once put his arm round her and kissed her on the lips, and breathed in the moisture and the fragrance of the flowers; and he immediately looked round him, anxiously wondering whether any one had seen them."

This short story is an absolute gem. I was guided towards it by its inclusion on a list by Alison McLeod of the top 10 stories about infidelity. It beautifully portrays that inexplicable appeal of something that could never really play out in real life. We all want what we can't have and sometimes its as unexpected as someone whose Pomeranian attacks.

A short story gets a short review. So check this little morsel out.

 5 out of 5  - a tiny tale expertly executed.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Highfire by Eoin Colfer


“The Chinese called what Waxman was a mogwai, a malevolent-type fairy.”
The genius behind the children's mega hit  Artemis Fowl series is back with a story for adults with just a splash of the supernatural. The last Dragon on Earth is living in the swamps of Louisiana with only a squad of alligators and a friendly Mogwai for companionship. Any human that spots his whereabouts will end up dead and that's how he likes it.

15 year old 'Squib' Moreau has problems of his own. The dodgiest lawman around has set a cap for his mother, and when Squib watches him commit murder, his demise seems imminent.

When these two unlikely characters cross paths you'll be charmed, afraid, bemused, bewildered, but mostly charmed.I found the language quite a step away from that of the child-friendly series the author is most known for, nevertheless this strange mix of genres really works. Part hardboiled crime thriller, part fantasy, part coming of age tale, mixed in an earthy brew of swamp water and served cold, just like revenge.

5 out of 5 - I love an ornery Dragon.💕

Friday, 19 June 2020

In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch

"Start a conversation with somebody and watch when they blink. I believe you will find that your listener will blink at the precise moment he or she "gets"the idea of what you are saying, not an instant earlier or later."

I first heard of this text from one of the many movie pod casts I've been listening to of late and felt compelled to grab a copy. There is something mesmerising about hearing from someone who is truly passionate about their craft and this little volume is an intriguing look into the mysteries of what goes on in the editing suite. It explores how technology has completely transformed the method and the manpower levels required to undertake the task and yet dispels any reservations you may have that changing tools detract from the art involved.

The notion of film cuts as analogous with the blink of an eye makes total sense. I took away an even greater appreciation for the skill of the editor, whose choices make or break a film.

5 out of 5 - this is better than the Director's cut.

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

"I remember with perfect clarity that first night I lost the ability to sleep."

George Burns apparently said "Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city."and I think that quote is relevant because in these COVID-crazy times, I decided to pick a book of short stories to read and discuss with my mother. When I lived in another city, I could do no wrong, now that I've returned to the same city... I can do no right. My choice of book in this instance was probably short sighted. For, as much I love Murakami, his style is probably not my mother's cup of tea (and boy does she love a cuppa). Consequently I finished and loved the book and she is totally M.I.A.

My appreciation of this collection of seventeen short stories varies in intensity from deep love to just enjoyment.So let's just take a look at some of the stories that floated my boat:

The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday's Women

I loved this moody, dreamlike story of a missing cat and a man who seems to be missing something of a life. It is a mystery that is never quite solved but enjoyable, like a good meal that leaves a delightful aftertaste.

The Second Bakery Attack

Late night cravings can turn criminal. This one left me a little conflicted, maybe its just because I don't eat bread or McDonalds.

On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning

Possibly the most beautiful, dreamlike, romantic tale I’ve read. Its efficiency of text is amazing and its denouement completely unexpected.


Get some rest.I mean, seriously.


I loved the symbolism of a random man filling the pants of the woman’s husband. Yet again a deftly spun short story with

Barn Burning

The basis for the movie Burning, which I absolutely loved. Its hard to believe that a movie of more than 2.5 hours in length could be born of such a tiny story. Id say inspired by would be more appropriate as the film builds an entire world from some limited conceits. The mystery that Murakami posits in this strange and enticing tale is a jumping off point for the film which suggests the boyfriend is a serial killer by implication and in relation to the girl’s disappearance. The rich fop mindlessly compelled to  burn old barns that aren’t his exudes entitlement and a strange kind of obsession. Murakami’s story is dreamlike and a puzzle to be savoured. One of the rare times where I preferred the film!

A Window

A sad tale about the transitory nature of life.

So I think that serves as a little taster. Now grab yourself a copy and get back to me with your thoughts.

5 out of 5 adventures occur when you're chasing cats.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Unreliable Memoirs by Clive James

"The star lolly, outstripping even the Violet Crumble Bar and the Fantail in popularity, was undoubtedly the Jaffa."

It has taken me forever to write the review of this book and I think that's due to the fact that its a bit of a time capsule. In many ways it reminds me of stories my Dad often tells (he was born a year before, so rather the same vintage) and they are problematic to me in many ways. They reflect that old fashioned view of women that divides us into attractive or easy or invisible. The gang bang episode was particularly unexpected and deeply saddening. It pretty much tainted the book for me. Perhaps its root cause is young boys in single sex schools, I'm grateful I went to a coed school, because it taught me that men are just as messed up as women, rather than having to learn that later in life.

I used to always love Clive on television, the rich timbre of his voice and his amusing chuckles to himself. The writing is as well realised and vivid as you would expect. It is weird that just one anecdote in a larger story could so wholeheartedly turn me off, but this did. As self deprecatory as James is throughout the memoir, there's this sense that women are even lower in his estimation, an object to conquer with a sad, unsatisfactory thrust.

Clearly this is a beloved classic, but I'm not convinced. Different times I guess.

3 out of 5 - disappointing.

In the Flo by Alisa Vita

"Before I realised I had to honour my second clock, my hormonal problems had drained my energy to the point where I was barely able to accomplish the basics of daily living."

This was recommended to me by someone in relation to ongoing crappiness that goes along with being female and the inability to shift pesky pounds that seem to just all want to jump on board an already overburdened lifeboat.I can't rubbish this entirely. There are some really interesting concepts here, its just that it is written like a marketing brochure or a 1970s style self help book. 
That format that goes...'for years I struggled with...a,b,c.... and now you can learn from my patented program", followed by a link to a website to sign up for additional paid content and apps.I respect that publishing doesn't make anyone rich these days but it just seems a little too much for my tastes. What I did learn and adopt was to cut out coffee and I think she's unfortunately right on that front. I'm less shaky and some other issues are less annoying. You don't understand how deep my love of coffee runs, so perhaps my dislike of the book was exacerbated by the fact it separated me from my favourite milky concoction.

I applaud anything that teaches women more about how we actually function. I've seen plenty of doctors who seem as mystified as a layman when it comes to women. So this is an unenthusiastically positive review. Worth a look and I think the changing foods and exercise in line with the time of your cycle makes sense. Hormones hey, can't live without them, but sometime they drive you up the wall.

3 out of 5 - way too many uses of the term 'bio-hacking'.

When it Drops by Alex Dyson

"When you're generally miserable, the idea of actually having fun becomes a weird, foreign concept."

In these strange times that we are living in, when things can tend to be a bit grim, Alex Dyson just seems to deliver the antidote. First it was his hilarious zoom-ba efforts, then his great breakfast podcast with Matt Okine and now, he's reached some kind of fantastic trifecta in the form of a novel. Having missed his morning presence on the radio for some time now, I could still recall that Alex was a man who could definitely spin a yarn. If you wonder whether that translates to book form, then wonder no more.

This young adult gem appeals to readers of all ages. Anyone who has been mortified by the reveal of their crush, or dreamt of meeting their idols and getting a record deal. The reality of love, loss and the pressures of instant fame are all fleshed out in an entertaining fashion, by someone who has seen such things first hand - and it shows.

I loved Matt Okine's book and I love this equally. Both reflect the adorable voices that their radio fans grew to love, their sense of mischievous fun and slightly Peter Pan quality. My only regret was that I finished reading this way too quickly, it was vivid and immersive and definitely a 'banger'.

5 out of 5 - 'pack er up boys' this one deserves a wave of the tune rag.