Saturday, April 30, 2016

Not The End Of The World - Christopher Brookmyre

Book Details

Book Title: Not The End Of The World

Author: Christopher Brookmyre

Publisher: Abacus 1999

Source: The library, my fortress of solitude

ISBN: 0349109281

Page Count: 388

Format: Fiction

Genre: Crime, with religion thrown in :)

Audience: Adults.

                                                               Summed up in one word: Seismic! 

First Impression: Christopher Brookmyre is one of my top favourite authors so I am slightly biased on this book, but it is his first stand alone book that is not part of one of his very awesome series' and it stands out nicely. It is a bold effort full of big events that will have you tearing through it to uncover the truth.

Summary of the Story:

Off the coast of Los Angeles a boat is found, it looks lived in but the crew is missing as though they were swept away in the middle of whatever they were doing. LA cop Larry Freeman is looking into this modern day Mary Celeste and his investigations produce very little evidence of anything fishy...excuse the pun.

Santa Monica is a town split in half, there is the American film makers peddling their various movies on the masses and there is The Festival Of Light, a religious gathering of hardcore Christian's there to protest the sin filled content the AFFM is peddling. Along with the FOL there is the American legion of decency and their leader Reverend Luther St John who is predicting a tidal wave will be coming to wash away all the sinners that plague the town. As 1999 syndrome fills the air so close to the millennium people are primed for thinking the END IS NIGH.

With religious protest under way and Luther St John declaring that 'The Whore of Babylon' and all the other sinners will be taken in the flood, there is apocalypse in everyone's minds. Madeleine A.K.A 'The Whore of Babylon' is a hardcore adult film actress/senator's daughter, she ignores Luther's campaign against her as she is out of the business and laying low. But when an Anonymous person threatens to blow up a boat load of innocent people if she doesn't kill herself on national TV at dawn the next day, she has to make some tough decisions.

Steff Kennedy is just a photographer from the U.K, but can he help save the world and get the girl...?

My Review:

Christopher Brookmyre picked the perfect time and setting for this story, my favourite part of this book straight off the bat is that each character has his or her own properly fleshed out back story, identity and writing style. CB doesn't just write one way for every character, he uses culture, speech and ideals to fuel each person's battle in this high octane story.

I have a very high opinion of CB and his work, but that doesn't count for much here, this is only his third book and he is still finding his signature style. This means it does not read like a typical Brookmyre piece which I found was a nice treat. Much like Bedlam, it is out of his usual comfort zone. I thought the story was solid, the characters were well put together in the sense that I agree that the life they have lived would produce the very people that they are in this story.

Larry Freeman has popped up previously in CB's first book, and it is great to see him back and fleshed out. He is a fairly standard character, cop with a tragic past but there are still a few unique touches to him that stop the eye-rolling, for example he uses his tragedy for a positivity instead of letting it hold him back. Larry is the glue that holds this story together and he is a very enjoyable character.

Luther St John is the star character in this piece, his story is tragic, humiliating, inspiring (to a minor degree), religious and ultimately evil. You can't help but feel bad for St John and understand why he is as he is. He is a man who overcame trials to become the man we see in this story and CB documents his life fully and the writing builds a great character who takes the story to many different places.

The other characters in this book are great too, I really enjoyed the love story between Steff and Madeleine, it brought the narrative back to the present moment and provided a sometimes much needed distraction in the heavier parts of the plot. Steff is funny, tough and smart. Madeleine is beautiful, wounded and but still has a lot of fight in her. Madeleine's back story deals with some strong themes including self harm and childhood sexual abuse, but its not overwhelming (though it is unacceptably tragic). 

The plot was not too unbelievable if you stretch your mind a little, but with the right people and the right means then it could happen. It includes A LOT of religion and quite a bit of oceanography terminology which can bog down the plot slightly but I never found myself wanting to skip parts because I couldn't put up with it. Luther's story brings the other strong themes, religion in it's more extreme boundaries, as well as dedication to the Lord's way.

My main criticism of the piece is that it is not a very smooth read, it can be choppy in places and it can be annoying to have to go back and re-read parts to get a better understanding, this is only in certain places but still. This is me personally though, you may find it a piece of cake and that I am just a bit slower than the norm...

Overall this book captures the era it was set in perfectly, the new millennium brought plenty of chaos to our civilisation and CB paints this picture nicely and cooks up a decent plot and a handful of great characters to really bring it to life again.

8/10

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Come To The Edge - Joanna Kavenna

Book Details

Book Title: Come To The Edge

Author: Joanna Kavenna

Publisher: Quercus 2013

Source: The library, my good friend 

ISBN: 178087216X

Page Count: 295

Format: Fiction

Genre: Emotional Humour, with thrilling elements.

Audience: Adults, maybe YAs

Summed up in one word: Revolutionary!


Summary Of The Story:

BEWARE THE THUNDERBOX!

In 'Come To The Edge' we follow an unnamed woman who up until her husband left her had been happy in their perfected but 'perverted' way of life. She had it all, a nice house, kitchen appliances, an office job, a TV and even a bath. But when her other half leaves her for a younger women as she apparently cannot bear children for him, the narrator of this story answers a wanted ad to help a 'Cassandra White' on her farm and takes her leave up to the north of England. 

It is here that our lead character suffers at the hands of Cassandra White, a tough as old boots widow who runs White farm on her own, does not trust the government or much else and definitely does not eat grain. Cassandra White is a woman on a mission, she is loud, judgemental, hard working and takes no prisoners, her husband is long gone and her kids have grown up and left, so it is just her, her cow and the ThunderBox.

White Farm is in a beautiful valley, once a farming community, the rich have bought up the land and placed expensive property on it that they do not use, just another 'must have' of the wealthy. This sort of thing does not sit well with Cassandra White and she makes it well known. The two women butt heads on most things when they first meet, things including sugar, hygiene, bathroom conditions, heating, butchery, alcohol, caffeine and practically every other comfort that we all enjoy day to day. 

This soon comes to a stop when the ladies find out another poor elderly couple have been turfed out of their house due to rising costs and made to move into more suitable housing. This has been happening all over the valley and this is where Cassandra White has decided that it is coming to an end. The women and practically the whole valley get embroiled in a thin-as-ice scheme to re-home the poor and elderly in the unused mansions that litter the land. Chaos ensues...

My Review:

Come To The Edge is predominately a funny book, though there are some harder themes running through it. The humour comes with the narrator and her classic outlook on life, her creature comforts, her not wanting to go to the bathroom in a whole in the ground, her trusting people and their decisions and her wanting to be warm. The other humorous element is definitely Cassandra White, abrasive, no-nonsense and completely self sufficient. The pair work well together and there is some great comedic material within these pages.

I think viewing Cassandra White from the outside was a great decision, viewing her from another's perspective really accentuated the crazy but also did her character a lot of justice as her way of life compared to the other woman's made her come across as a special breed of person, one you don't get to see very often these days. The other character had her moments but mainly she is the complainer, fighting a new way of life, fighting her inner voice telling her to just run away and mainly to document the scheme devised by Cassandra.

The story itself is well written, it develops nicely over time, it stays interesting and great characters occupy its walls. I felt the tone changes were a bit intense and shifted the weight of the book uncomfortably here and there but its not enough to break the lovely rhythm that JK manages to weave here. The ending for me did not match the pace of the book, the last 50 odd pages went from about a steady 40mph to 100mph and the events that take place when it is going that fast are a little over the top. It is not that the actions of the characters don't make sense, they fit the personalities perfectly, it is just the degree of craziness that really does not compute, but its fiction so there is room for plenty of craziness.

Overall I believe it is absolutely worth a read, it is an insight into an older way of life, it may get you off the couch and growing a few of own vegetables and sneaking your grandparents into that house down the road that is always empty, CTTE is a fast paced, easy read, that will have you laughing, wondering, revolting and saying...was that really necessary.

8/10

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Matter Of Blood - Sarah Pinborough

Book Details

Book Title: A Matter Of Blood

Author: Sarah Pinborough

Publisher: Gollancz 2011

Source: The library, they are good to me :D

ISBN: 0575089474

Part: One of Three

Page Count: 421

Format: Fiction :D

Genre: Many shades of Horror 

Audience: Adults, violence and profanity

Summed up in one word: Addicitve!



Summary of the Book:

Detective Inspector Cass Jones a cop with a difficult past is on a serial murder case, women are showing up dead with the same MO, same death, same message and same fly eggs left on the corpse...
Cass is also dealing with a double homicide involving two young boys shot down in an attempted assassination. On top of his already full plate, Cass's younger brother Christian wakes up one night and then murders his family and himself. 

DI Cass Jones is implicated in his brothers murder due to evidence left at the scene, Cass is dirty but he is not evil, he needs to get to the bottom of Christian's murder and his set-up and fast as he is being chased for their deaths and being haunted by his brothers corpse.

What follows is an unravelling of 3 unconnected cases that all involve the same several in-the dark entities. A mysterious company called 'The Bank' who have seemed to take over London and the world slowly from behind the scenes. A well dressed man called Mr Bright who can't be found in any database and 'The Man of Flies' the serial murderer going round the city killing innocent people and leaving clues to his identity.

My Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it is one of those great pieces that works amazingly as a single story but also has enough potential to be a series (which it is). I thought Cass Jones was well thought out, well fleshed out and he will appeal to many different readers in different ways. Cass is a dirty cop but then again all the cops are dirty, this story is set in a different sort of London, one where there is no public healthcare and the police are paid by convictions so they cut corners to make ends meet. Cass cares about the right things, he does not cross certain lines and he takes down anyone who will. He occupies 90% of this story, and SP does a great job keeping his story interesting and developing him over the course of several emotion episodes.

The other characters in this book are also well written if not a little cliched but it works and you don't feel yourself rolling your eyes at another posh bad guy, another bad cop who takes things to far or wife who is unhappy and takes matters into her own hands. All the characters had their places, all connected well and I really enjoyed the character interactions. Christian's ghost brings a nice pace breaker to the story, his small but intense appearances bring the story to a halt and add horror to this book. The other horror element is the 'Man of Flies' and his murders, but they are far and few between. 

The real horror is this story is behind the choices that members of this cast of characters make and they pull some very emotional punches. Few books get me out of my chair, pacing the room saying 'WHAT THE HELL' over and over. My emotions were challenged and my heart was broken, not what you really look for in a horror, but maybe that element is fleshed out in the later books. 

SP includes several important themes in this material, there is corruption, marital problems, crime, murder, politics and religion. I think they mesh well, not over powering each other and each one takes the narrative to the next level.

I am struggling to find many things wrong with this piece but then again Sarah Pinborough is a seasoned writer and it definitely shows with her work here. I was a little annoyed that this comes across as a horror but there is very little actual horror in A Matter of Blood, has the story not captured me completely then this would have been not very good. I don't believe that the absolutely horrendous parts of this book are too much, maybe the part with the kittens was overkill but thats my opinion.

A Matter of Blood will have you out of your chair yelling, questioning and going back for more. Cass Jones is a great main character, he leads you through this harsh world bringing justice and redemption one person at a time.

Please try this book out, its a trilogy so I have now got to go and get the other two and review them here for you, but that may take time so it's best you go without me :D

9/10

If you enjoy Sarah Pinborough then check out my review for Death House here on www.alwaystrustinbooks.blogspot.co.uk. If you enjoyed my review in general then check out my other Fiction and Non Fiction reviews here on this blog. Also join us on Facebook or Twitter :D Have a great day.






Thursday, April 14, 2016

Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams - Paul Martin

Book Details

Book Title:  Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams

Author: Paul Martin

Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers 2002

Source: The library :D

Page Count: 406

Format: Non-Fiction

Genre: Sleep Health

Audience: Those who need to know more about sleep.

Summed up in one word: Dreamy



Author Bio: Paul Martin is a Cambridge University graduate with a PhD in behavioural biology. Paul has authored several books all focusing on the pleasure aspects of behaviour and life (sleep, happiness and food) and has also written about mental illness.


Summary of the Book:

Counting Sheep is a book all about sleep and its various benefits, problems and history, that definitely did not have me nodding off. Everything comes down to sleep, health, life satisfaction, learning and memory. This book will change your understanding of how you spend one third of your life.

I learned plenty about the life under the covers and in the land of Nod, Paul Martin has put together a great book with one major message to get across to us all, we need more sleep and he has the knowledge and the advice to help.

Paul Martin works hard to get his point across to the reader, but he does a great job. The book is separated into 7 parts with a total of 17 chapters. Each chapter had sub sections, each with their own valid piece of information, each accompanied with a quote that relates to the subject matter. I enjoyed the format of this book, it was broken up nicely and make for comfortable reading, I didn't once find my self confused about what PM was talking about or his overall point.

Counting Sheep is a journey through all the elements of sleep, from how humans and animals actually go to sleep, what happens if we don't get enough (which we don't), dreams and how to control them, sleep disorders, cultural sleep habits and the dangers of sleep deprivation in everyday life. 

PM shares with us the medical side of sleep, with lots of different terminology and jargon that I felt added some extra depth to the overall learning capabilities with this book, I like to learn whilst I read and this definitely taught me some important pieces of information. One of my favourite being that a Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty is a surgery to remove the Uvula to alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnoea (a deadly sleep disorder). 

PM pulls out all the stops, he delves into the evolutionary history of sleep, why we snore, how we move in our sleep, and how our senses can affect our dreams while we are asleep. Dreaming and its capabilities is a whole other portion of the book and it is very interesting, especially the advice on how to achieve lucid dreams and how to enjoy your sleep to the maximum.  

My main criticism of this book is it seemed that PM needed to use historical figures and their various stories to make his point at each stage, I feel that he over did it with the stories, they were interesting at first but they seem to dilute what he was trying to say at times. I found what PM had to say was interesting, he is clearly esteemed enough to make his own points but he felt that stories, quotes and references to historical figures maybe gave the material that extra gusto, but I thought PM was doing a great job by himself.

This really is a book for everyone, there is information for babies, children, teenagers, men, women, the older generation and for animals too. My main positive aspect of this book is that Paul Martin genuinely wants to help people. He gives advice to the sleep deprived, new parents and the general population on how to deal with their sleep problems and that allow them to live a better lives when they are resolved (though there is not much you can do as a parent of a baby, been there...totally worth it though!)

PM has written a very influential book that is a must read by everyone, it will change your understanding of an evolutionary activity that you will spend one third of your life participating in, get learning and enjoy sleep, so you can enjoy life to the fullest.

9/10

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Saturday, April 09, 2016

Manuscripts Of The Macabre - Maurice M Mckiernan

Book Details

Book Title: Manuscripts Of The Macabre

Author: Maurice M Mckiernan

Publisher: Xlibris 2016

Source: The Author sent this to me in exchange for an honest review

ISBN: 1514468239

Page Count: 148

Format: Fiction

Genre: Horror, wide spectrum :)

Audience: Adults..maybe YAs

Summed up in one word: More-ish


First Impression: First things first I absolutely love this front cover, it is one of the best front covers I have seen this year. It is 100% eye catching and makes me want to delve inside. Inside is an impressive collection of short stories that provide a range of horror elements but all have the same effect, that 'I need to know what happens' effect :D


Summary Of The Book:

This is a debut for MMM and it really packs a punch.

It begins with the longest entry of the set, a chilling multi tiered violent and emotional horror piece that not only breaks hearts it tears them up. A criminal is put to death and he goes out with a bang, Karl who was present is still coming to terms with the events that took place when he suffers his own tragedy, this story will grab you and you won't stop reading until the conclusion. Part 1 is the strongest part of this book for me, maybe because I can relate partly to it being a parent. Part one also contains the strongest elements and it is clear this is where MMM shines, I look forward to his first full length novel, there better one on the way!

After an intense part 1, parts 2-6 are a medley of different styles, perspectives and types of horror. There is biblical, psychological, criminal and immoral sides to these short stories, they all have one thing in common, they are immensely enjoyable, just the right length and very well written.

I felt that MMM did show his hand a little too soon with part one, it was such a great start that the others didn't have the same impact which is shame, the length of the book leaves room for more stories or a little bit more elaboration on some of the already present pieces. I'm not to saying they aren't satisfying already, just that I wanted more, but that's me, greedy :D.

The writing is strong, the settings and the characters are swift but they definitely make an impression, I can still remember each scenario vividly and I have an awful memory. I really look forward to another book from MMM he is onto something here. If you enjoyed this book, you should check out 20th Century Ghost Stories by Joe Hill also, another great collection of shorts that stick with this intense style of emotional, varied, memorable horror pieces.

MMM brings up a taster of what he is capable of and I very much look forward to another instalment of short stories and a full length novel, I don't ask for much...

8/10

If you enjoyed this review then please check this book out, you won't be disappointed. Check out my blog alwaystrustinbooks.blogspot.co.uk for more reviews like this and Like me on Facebook or Follow me on twitter for news/updates/general booky things :D Have a great day. Cheers!! 

Down Station - Simon Morden

Book Details

Book Title: Down Station

Author: Simon Morden

Publisher: Gollancz 2016

Source: The library, my second home

ISBN: 147321145X

Page Count: 340

Format: Fiction :D

Genre: Fantasy

Audience: Adults..maybe YAs

Summed up in one word: POTENTIAL!



First Impressions: I thought Simon Morden's Metrozone series was awesome, so I picked this up already primed for a great read and I was not disappointed. Down Station is not a ground-breaking book, the story and characters are well written, if not for the time being a tad generic but they have serious potential as does the story overall. This is fantasy, with swearing, violence and mystery. 

Summary of the Book:

A handful of londoners get trapped in a life threatening situation whilst working their jobs in the London Underground. They seek refuge from danger in a disused train platform which turns out to be a dead end. Just when they think their lives are at an end they discover a portal to a different world. This world is called Down and it has very different rules to our earth!

Their journey takes them through the major pits and perils of the land, meeting the people of Down, learning their stories and attempting to find a way back to London. There are monsters, mysteries and maps, with plenty of swearing and violence thrown into the mix. The main characters Mary and Dalip both find their way and their selves in this unforgiving land full of unforgiving people.

This is a story set in a fantasy land, where people change over time depending on their natural strengths and weaknesses, the strong become heroes, the compassionate become healers and the bad...they turn into sinister beings who want the land for themselves. Down is world similar to all the other fantasy worlds we see across fiction, there are a few original concepts but its business as usual in terms of the stories setting. This is a shame as I have a feeling there will be more revealed in the future, but if SM had included some more detail in the first outing then it would have made this an amazing book instead of a greatly enjoyable one.

The real show pieces are the characters, a diverse group, with lots of different character styles. Some are very standard people, the hard Eastern European, the Den Mother who takes everyone under her wing and some evil henchmen who take the fall to protect their masters. I felt the lead characters were very well written, if not a bit infuriating at times but with this hopefully becoming a trilogy I am seriously looking forward to seeing where SM is taking their stories.

Mary is a moody ne'er-do-well, who is looking for excuses to run away from her crappy life, she manages to get this opportunity in the form of a portal to a new world. Though Mary is fearful at first, she uses anger and profanity to make her way through the world and eventually realise her potential. I did not like Mary at first as she was arrogant, stroppy and power hungry to begin with but by the end I was rooting for her.

Dalip is the other main character of this story and he is by far my favourite. Dalip is a Sikh who has no real life experience outside of his family life. Dalip is boy who always does the right thing and has the harder journey of the two strongest characters. Dalip is forced to do things he never imagined he would do in his life, his story is full of pain, overcoming fear and fighting monsters who want to harm his friends.

There are many other character who are included to bring some other great plot reveals but I don't want to spoil everything if you decide this is the sort of story that you would enjoy. In my opinion, this is a very safe book, it is well written and I found it enjoyable to the point that I read it in 3 sittings, but the real talking point is the potential this story has to be awesome across a trilogy, so Simon Morden this better be a trilogy!!

I recommend this book for those who love a bit of badass fantasy fiction, with an additional enjoyment of a evolving story that doesn't just play it's hand straight of the bat. If you read Down Station and love it then you should definitely check out SM's Samuil Petrovitch trilogy  (the front covers are crazy!) while you wait for a sequel :D.

8/10

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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Breakdown: A Personal Crisis And A Medical Dilemma - Stuart Sutherland

Book Details

Book Title:  Breakdown: A Personal Crisis And A Medical Dilemma

Author: Stuart Sutherland

Publisher: Pinter and Martin Ltd 2010

Source: The local library, they treat me well!

Page Count: 280

Format: Non-Fiction

Genre: Psychology/Medicine

Audience: Those who want or need to learn more about mental illness and the past and current treatments offered by the U.K and U.S.A.

Buy It/Borrow it/Avoid it: Borrow it!

Summed up in one word: Enlightening
Summary of the Book:

Stuart Sutherland has been through hell and back. In his mid 40's Stuart had a mental breakdown, he then spent a decade battling his own manic depression, in and out of mental facilities and trying a vast spectrum of treatments and drugs to heal his mind and get back to normality. This account is written through his own eyes as a professor of psychology, which provides a unique view on whether the hospitals and treatments are actually helping or hindering his own path to recovery as well as those around him.

Breakdown is split into two sections, written over a 40 year period of time from when SS's story was first published in 1976 and the various additions and new content added over the years. The first section is an account of Stuart's journey through the British mental health system, the actual roots of his mental health issues and his eventual cure after trying most of the available treatments in the field of psychology. From Psychoanalysis, through behavioural therapy and eventually cognitive therapy with all sorts of different medications added in to increase the chance of remission.

The second section is overview of each style of therapy or field of psychology, with a detailed analysis at the end of each cluster of chapters on the various fields. The analysis of each therapy goes into whether that therapy is useful in helping cure mental illness or if it actually makes patients worse. SS also includes case studies on each treatment to expand his arguments and delves into whether that treatment worked well in helping his own journey to recovery. 

There are many additional sections included in the second part of this book, they address various topics including how the drugs affect the human brain, whether sexual abuse causes mental illness in adults and how doctors have tried to manipulate the brain itself to try and cure psychosis and neurosis.

The Review:

This is an important book, it sheds light on a world that most of us don't really understand or choose not to get involved with. SS really tries to lift the stigma on the mentally ill and I personally think he does a great job.

The first section of this book is emotionally charged and is heavy on the narrative. It is an honest and open account of one man's pain and struggle to deal with a new world of suffering, neurosis and depression...along with an amusing account of the authors hypomania which brings about some funny stories involving an art gallery and a sex shop. 

My main issue with this section is that it reads at times like a novel which is slightly disorientating and felt like I was reading 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' again. 
But this is only at times and the rest is a disturbing and very real account of SS and his difficulties with analysts who pick him and his psyche apart, medication and its horrendous side affects including cotton mouth, constipation, tremors and heart problems. SS hides nothing, he opens his life to you and shares every tiny detail of his most vulnerable time on this earth and it really drives home the issues facing mentally ill patients and how they are treated both in the hospital and out.

The second section of this book is cut down into 20 mini chapters, each with a clear object of discussion, mostly the different approaches that therapists take with their patients, the issue with each treatment and also the successes of that the field, usually hidden amongst the many failures, though SS believes that cognitive therapy really does help patients improve. I thought that SS having been through this system would make him very biased towards each treatment but surprisingly he keeps his own problems out of it and takes an objective view of each style of treatment, using case studies and many statistics to paint a clear picture of how that style really affects the patients. Then SS goes into the many drugs that are available to the patients and their side affects which span from horrible to very uncomfortably evil. Finally his last section deals with the affects of drugs on the brain, how neurotransmitters are disturbed or controlled by medication, SS also delves a little into whether sexual abuse as a child breeds mental health issues in adulthood.

The main issue with this second section is that the density of the text along with the small font size really for me was very laborious and managed to undermine the flow of the text and my interest as a reader, but only occasionally when the tone of the information was overly clinical and elaborated on a subject that I felt was clear enough already.

Breakdown is definitely a must read book, Stuart Sutherland sets out to paint a clear picture of this world we know very little off, this world of Freud and his psychoanalysis, behavioural therapy and Aaron Beck and his Cognitive Therapy, which hands down he did perfectly. Therapist's don't always approach their work and their patients in the correct way and SS tries to show us where things go wrong and where they go right.

SS's last chapter to me meant the most in this book, he gives the reader 21 helpful tips on dealing with one's own mental health issues or those of a family member, the chapter makes it clear that this isn't written by some guy who knows some stuff, but a guy who knows the real deal.

8/10


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Saturday, April 02, 2016

Man On Fire - Stephen Kelman

Book Details

Book Title:  Man On Fire

Author: Stephen Kelman

Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus 2015

Source: The library, my second home

Page Count: 296

Format: Fiction...with true elements

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Audience: Adults..maybe YAs

Buy It/Borrow it/Avoid it: Buy it!

Summed up in one word: Quotable :D



Impression of the Book: I really enjoyed this book. What a wonderful blend of emotions, perfectly written characters and a flawless story that was sometimes hard to see with all the teary-eyed-ness :P Based on a true story of record breaker from India, Stephen Kelman wrote an epic novel depicting his success, his family and him meeting a white man from England.

Summary/Review Of The Story:

'Man On Fire' follows the story of two very different gentleman who cross paths in India. The narrative is first person and is split between John Lock, an Englishman who is dying of cancer and has gone to India to meet a man who takes life by the horns and takes no chances. This man is Bibhuti Nayak (nickname BB), an Indian man from Navi Mumbai who breaks world records and lives by his almighty's guidance.

The story switches between the present day events and both John and BB's past running up to the main event, BB intends to set the world record for most bats smashed over a human body (aiming for 50!). John is running from his life and his cancer, hoping to bring meaning to his life by helping BB achieve this record. John has left his wife behind, faked his death and offered BB every penny he has in this effort.

BB's history is long and full of achievement, many world records broken with his first being 'Most kicks to the unprotected groin in 90 seconds' (Cringe!!). Most of his record attempts have an element of pain involved as he managed through years of meditation to hide the pain from his body and endure it for long periods of time. Other successful records breaks include 'Most sit-ups in 90 minutes', 'Most watermelons dropped on the stomach in 60 seconds from a height of 10m' and 'Most back-handed push-ups in 60 seconds'.

There is a quote in the book that sums up BB's attitude and his character:

"In truthfulness I was in some agony but I know that in my new office of 'Guiness World Record Holder' I must keep at check my suffering to encourage those aspiring sportsmen who aim to follow in my foot-steps. I was therefore quite ashamed when I was unable to stop myself from falling into a small coma"

I love this quote and there are plenty of them just like this one, inspirational, humorous and slightly irresponsible at times. John has to earn the respect of BB and his family, whilst he does this the characters are brought into focus really well and you are able to enjoy each person individually and as part of the group. 'Man On Fire' is an inspirational story set in an true to life India, full of poverty, heat, religion, over-population and community spirit. I really enjoyed the relationship between John and BB's son 'Jolly Boy'. Their funny and heart warming antics brought a much needed smile to my face in the harder sections of this book.

I don't really have a least favourite part of this book, the whole plot is well written and there are no unnecessary bits to the story of the characters that was better left out. Every word had it's place and it weaved together so well, I actually read a lot of the sentences out loud as I loved the way they sounded. My major issue with this book was the unexpected changes between the past and the present, quick glimpses back to the past on a chapter set in the present or vice versa. I found this very disorientating as it stops the flow of the text more than it adds to it, but it is only here and there and not constant so I can live with it.

I recommend this book to those readers who love every word to count for something, those readers who love strong, well written characters who make the story amazing just by being included in it. There is much sadness in this tome, scenes that people like myself do not witness day to day and so it impacts harder as we have it so much easier here in England.

Relationships are made, relationships are healed and records are broken. SK has done such a great job turning this real life story (BB is a real man who really breaks records) into a more rounded and inspiring tale of overcoming fear, pain and facing up to life and all the negativity that comes with it. I am really looking forward to SK's next book, I will be keeping a careful eye out for it...hurry up.

10/10

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