Black Swan Green – David Mitchell

One more book by David Mitchell that i just finished.

This book is definitely different to his first three books in that it’s semi auto-biographical.   David is a stammerer and uses this book as his kind of coming out statement by creating a protagonist, 13 year old Jason Taylor, who is also a stammerer.

Jason lives in the, ‘nothing much happening at all’, village of Black Swan Green in Worcestershire (wherever Worcestershire is), and the book is written in 13 chapters each representing one month from January 1982 to January 1983.

One of the things that stands out most about this book is the utter lack of political-correctness, words and views.   Back in the early 80’s, and before, we had no concept of political-correctness whatsoever.   Children with defects and disabilities were hounded, abused and bullied — i know, i was a child with a serious disability in the 60’s and 70’s, or, as we were officially termed… ‘invalids’.   It’s quite incredible to think back to how society used to view people with disabilities… simply dismissed, officially, as ‘invalid’ people.

There was simply no concept whatsoever in the general population of disability discrimination being seen as anything wrong — it was completely socially acceptable.   I was 17 in 1982 and the way things were back then were very different to today.   We had never heard of dyslexia, for example, and children who couldn’t read or write well were just branded as retarded, stupid idiots, segragated into remedial classes and generally shunned.   For David Mitchell growing up with a speech defect back then i can imagine that life would not have been easy at all for a 13 year boy — which is what this book tells the story of.

But i have to say, this is an excellent look at life back in the early 80’s in general.   The views of the school children that David writes about really take the reader back in time so vividly, especially for those of us who were teenagers back in the late 70’s early 80’s.

So i definitely recommend this book to anyone who was a teenager back in the late 70’s early 80’s, especially if they had any kind of disability.   Having been a child with a disability back then i found this book very cathartic.   And i would also recommend it to all teenagers today, especially those who think that people’s disabilities and differences are invites to be bullied and abused and to be thought of as being lesser people.   I would even go so far as to say that this book would be an excellent book for GCSE English, it would certainly make children think about a few things that they should be thinking about — it would be far more socially constructive for the next generation to be reading books like this than reading ever more shakespeare and dickens which haven’t done anything to improve our society at all.

Anyway, well worth a read.   And i’ve now just began reading David’s next book, ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet’.   I’ll let you know what i think once i’ve finished it, as always.

David’s Page

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Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

All i can say is if you’ve watched the film and haven’t read the book then you’re missing out on something special.   Go read the book, the film is utter shite.

For those who don’t know, the book is a set of six short stories that all interconnect with each other, but here’s the thing, is that you get half way through the first short when you are dumped into the second.   Half way through that you are dumped into the third. And so on until you read all the way through the sixth one and come back down to the second half of the fifth, fourth, and so on until you finish the second half of the first story and reach the end.   Amazing climax!!!!   Literary orgasm!!!   Superb read!!!!

I really like this six shorts in one with ties between thing.   It’s definitely a thing, albeit rather rare.   It’s certainly something that i want more of.

‘What Lot’s Wife Saw’ is also a 6 part book.   Instead of short stories it’s about 6 letters all being intertwined into one story.   Admittedly a lot different to Cloud Atlas, but still the six come together to make the whole.

So anyways, if anyone reading this knows of any other books that are a collection of 6 intertwined naratives that make the whole (i won’t complain if its 5 or 7 so don’t be too picky ), please let me know as i’m really enjoying this genre of writing.

David’s Page

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number9dream – David Mitchell

Yet another great book from David Mitchell.

This story has us following a young Japanese man, Eiji Miyake, looking for his father through Tokyo’s twists and turns.

Eiji has never met his father as he is the child of one of his father’s affairs.   Eiji’s twin sister died in a swimming accident when he was young and he is also estranged from his mother, and in so being this puts even more emphasis on meeting his father and being acknowledged as his son and finding some family.

The strange thing with this story (there always seems to be a strange thing with David’s stories), is that while the whole book is written in Eiji’s first person perspective, only part is real while the other part of it is the pure fantasy of Eiji’s imagination.   But where real and fantasy meet, and which is which, one is left feeling never quite sure as they blend so seamlessly taking the reader on a journey where fantasy and reality become the same and/or irrelevant.

This is certainly a great book, especially for those estranged from parents while young, and a fantastic adventure (or maybe a fantastic fantasy) through the seedy underworld of Tokyo.

Well worth a read!   David Mitchell is truly one of the greatest writers of our time.

David’s Page

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Ghostwritten – David Mitchell

David Mitchell’s first book, and what a masterpiece of a short story collection it is.

I’ve now got ‘Number9Dream’, also by David, lined up, then i plan to read the rest of David’s books in order and when David’s added a few more to the pile i’ll definitely be coming back to re-read them all over again from the beginning.

I’m definitely a huge fan of David’s writing and can truly see why he’s been shortlisted with two books for the Booker Prize already and has won other awards for his writing also.

I’ve added a comment down below this post which is a little bit of a spoiler, and if you are definitely going to read the book then do that before scrolling down there as you’ll spoil it.   Then, when you’ve read the book, come back and read the spoiler and let me know what you thought.

David’s Page

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Spice Alchemy – Neil Cowling

If you like food with flavour then this is a great book.

If you have high blood pressure and want to get rid of salt out of your diet, then use spices and herbs to replace it — this is the book to show you how.

No, i’ve no idea how authentic the spice mixes and recipes are, but to be honest, they’re all really nice so i don’t actually care if my cajun spiced high carb salad dressing is authentic or not, it’s delicious and that’s all i wanted from this book.

The book has lists of various spice recipes from around the world, and also complete recipes in which to use those mixes, if you chose to.   Personally, i just take the spice mixes and make my own things with them as i’m vegan.

My only complaint is that the spice mixes are listed in tsp and tbsp, some ingredients are listed as pre-ground, others are whole, so it all gets confusing in that regard.   I found i had to go to ‘Cronometer’ and use their ‘Add food’ thing with what was stated in the spice mix ingredients and then change the output to grams to get the exact weight.   That way i could use whole coriander seeds by weight to the same amount of ground coriander by tsp that was listed in the recipe. But if you’re happy using the pre-ground spices then all that won’t be a problem.

But, if you’re going to all this trouble of making your own spice mixes then do yourself a favour and buy whole spices with as far away a ‘sell by’ date on them as you can find in the shops to make sure they’re as fresh as possible — you can even splash out and get organic ones.   You’ll notice a huge difference.   Pre-ground spices are stale by nature as once you grind a spice it starts to degrade rapidly, with fats oxidising and going rancid and essential oils evapourated away.   Most whole spices, that you grind fresh each time to the exact amount you need, are living seeds that you should be able to plant and grow — they’re very fresh!!!   If you do want to get into the weighing whole spice thing then you’ll also need a micro scale (ebay) that weighs to 0.1 grams or finer — well worth a few pounds if you want to make some seriously consistent spice mixes that are repeatable.

That all said, even if you do just want to use tsp and tbsp with pre-ground spices, this book is very much worth the 99p to begin your journey into mixing spices and having some real flavour and health in your food instead of just salt and high blood pressure.

Neil’s Page

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Lost For Words – Stephanie Butland

A most lovely book in its own right, but especially if you like books about book shops.   If you do like books about book shops then this ones a good ‘un, it’s like a mix between ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’ and ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’.

But as well as being a lovely book in its own right, it really spoke to those of us who have been through the ‘Care of the Local Authority’ system (or at least it did to this one of those ‘us’).

And then there’s the added bonus that was all the Whitby stuff.   I used to go there a fair bit in my teenage years and if, like me, you remember Whitby from your childhood, then that’s another reason to read this book.

Did i mention the mystery thing?   Yeah, there’s the usual mystery going on for you mystery readers — will it be solved or won’t it, what’s it all about, etc., etc..

Oh, and before i forget, there’s even a love story thing as well?   Yeah, one of those, but, don’t worry, it won’t distract you from the best bits.

So it’s pretty much got a bit of everything going on in it, and it’s got it going on really well, so it’s definitely a keeper.   One day i plan to get around to reading it again.

Stephanie’s Page

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Lil and Coop – Joseph R. Lallo

The second short story in the ‘Free Wrench’ series that is currently only available to Joseph’s Patreon subscribers.

The first short gave Wink’s history and how he came to be on the crew of the Wind Breaker, this time it’s Lil and Coop’s turn to get the treatment.   In the main books it just brushes over how the crew came to be there, apart from Nita, so it’s great to have these shorts from Joseph giving a lot more detail.   Definitely not to be missed by fans of the series.   Looking forward to the rest of the crew getting laid bare.

Joseph’s Page

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The New Inspector – Joseph R. Lallo

Although this delightful little short is the sixth book of the ‘Free Wrench’ series, i feel it can be read at any time once you’ve got settled into the series.

I read it after Cipher Hill and it totally worked for me reading it then.   And i’m actually quite pleased that i didn’t read it until then because i really enjoyed the change in my feelings towards Wink.   I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say, if you’re a fan of the ‘Free Wrench’ series by Joseph R. Lallo and its resident little furries, the Aye Ayes, then this is an absolute must read.   After reading ‘The New Inspector’ i really do hope Joseph writes more Aye Aye stories, they’re awesome little fuggers and easily deserve their own spin off series.

So how do you get it?

It’s currently only available to Joseph’s Patreon supporters.   Sign up today and get some book’s, support our favourite independent writer and keep on keeping it real against the big corporate nasty publishing houses who want to control everything we read.   Independent writers are well worth supporting, me thinks.

Joseph’s Page

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Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence – Michael Marshall Smith

I noticed this book in the ’12 Days of Kindle’ sale that Amazon were having for the 2018 winter hols and it made me think of a friend named Hannah who spends most of her work days in a rather mundane looking cupboard (yes, actually in a cupboard), and the title of this book instantly made me think of her.   And so, with me being hooked on the title, and also suitably impressed by the cover art, i had a quick look at the reviews and they seemed rather positive as well — and at £1.49 one can’t really go wrong.   And so, with all four check boxes (cover, title, reviews and price) ticked, i went ahead and bought the book.

Of course, i had to go and tell Hannah about my fiendishly brilliant book purchase, while she was at work, sat in her cupboard.   I know, i’m bad, but it put a smile and a giggle on Hannah’s face.

So, you’re probably wondering, when’s he gonna get onto talking about the actual story and doing an actual review?   Like, was it any good?   Was it worth £1.49?   Did it come up to the standard of the cover and the title?   Was Hannah’s existence, really, ‘unfeasibly mundane’?

The answer to all the above, is yes. More than yes, actually.

It was brilliant, it was worth more than £1.49, it surpassed its cover and certainly matched its title, as while Hannah starts out with quite a feasibly mundane existence, of which she wasn’t too impressed although she did enjoy some of it, it soon begins to spiral rapidly into complete unfeasibility of mundaneness when Hannah’s parents split up and she goes to stay with her granddad for a couple of weeks and the devil himself turns up at granddad’s house with an accident imp in tow because… well, you’ll just have to read it and find out for yourself.

I know what you’re thining.   You’re thinking it all sounds incredibly silly, ‘the devil himself and an accident imp’?   But it isn’t at all silly, there’s a real underlying serious side to this book.   It’s about the stories of our lives, who gets to write them, who we’re in them with and who we write them with — which would be incredibly dull and tedious if you just wrote a philosophy PHD thesis on the topic, but Michael manages to make the points he wants to make while packaging it all up in an a story that is quite giggle-icious.

I would also add that i think it’s very suitable for both adults (especially parents) and teens alike and, IMHO, speaks incredibly well to each about the other — something for us all to learn.

So yes, at the end of the tale, i can honestly say that it’s a really wonderful book that i’m very glad to have discovered (thank you Hannah and your cupboard ), with a nice easy flowing style that just lets you fall inside the book and enjoy a story about the stories of our lives.

Michael’s Page

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Lost Boy – Christina Henry

After my recent dive into Peter Pan’s history i was so looking forward to this.

And i can happily say it was everything, and more, than i hoped it would be.

Everything in the sense that it was up there with at the level of ‘Alice’, but instead of the violent schizo escaping from a high security mental hospital, rapidly withdrawing from her anti-psychotic meds leading to a total psychotic meltdown while running around town with a mad axeman on a murder spree, this one’s delving into the realms of psychopathy.   Of course, like ‘Alice’ you can just read it as a straight forward story and not get too into the mental health side of what’s going on, but it’s all there if you want some depth to it.   Christina is one brilliant writer.

That’s everything i hoped it would be, the more than i hoped it would be was the similarity between Peter Pan and his Island and a person and place i found myself in several years ago.   It was at times quite disturbing in how similar it all was, to really understand how the protagonist, Jamie, felt and to be able to put myself in his place, because i’d found myself in a very similar situation with a very similar person.   But as much as it was disturbing it was so because it was so incredibly cathartic and i’m really pleased to have had the experience of reading this book, so thank you Christina for that as well.

On top of all that, i certainly felt it showed respect for J.M. Barries’ work, and built on that really well giving it all a whole new dimension to consider, one only hinted at in the original works, and i definitely recommend reading those three original books by James before embarking on this one — although this can be read as stand alone if you so wish, i just feel you’d be missing out a great deal by doing so.

For now though, this brings an end to my current Peter Pan binge, but i’m sure i’ll be back to Neverland in the future, there’s just too much been written around the original story for me to ignore for long.

Christina’s Page

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