boo – neil smith

Boo – Neil Smith

“The sky used to be bluer in my day,” says the old man. “But it is your day,” I reply. “You aren’t dead yet.”

I received a review copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Thirteen year old Oliver “Boo” Dalrymple got his nickname at school due to the ghostly colour of his pale skin, and his white-blond sticky-up hair. He is now having an opportunity to live up to his name as he is quite suddenly dead.

“I died in front of my locker at Keller Junior High on September 7, 1979,” he tells us.

Boo wakes up in Town. Town isn’t much of a heaven. Only thirteen year olds that have died in America inhabit his particular Town, but some of the thirteen year old inhabitants have been thirteen for decades – apparently you rebirth after 50 years.

Boo has always been a little ‘different’. He never made friends easily, his social skills were never the greatest, he has a habit of voicing the inappropriate, but his IQ is superior for his age. Town is both a disappointment (it’s much like America but with less stuff) and a wonder (people and buildings can ‘fix’ themselves when they are broken).  So, Boo spends time getting to know his fellow Townies, conducting his own experiments, and trying to work out how he died, which he believes is due to his heart defect.

However, when he discovers a fellow student from his school, Johnny,  who tells him that they were actually both murdered – and that their murderer, the mysterious Gunboy who he only sees in his nightmares, killed himself too, so is probably in Town somewhere.

Boo and Johnny decide to track down Gunboy and demand answers – but are either of them ready for the truth and its own consequences?

I loved the idea behind this book, although some of the details were a bit odd. A Town full of just thirteen year olds? All I kept thinking was that they were actually growing old and well into middle-age and probably falling in love – and then, well, wouldn’t they be wanting to have sex? And that would just be totally weird!

Surprisingly, even though the book starts off with a dead kid, it took me ages to get into it. Boo isn’t exactly the easiest character to like, and Town just seemed so…normal.  There was a lot of description about how things were, but there was so little that was fantastical (and perhaps that was just the point) that I kind of switched off through a lot of the text.

But after a slow start, the middle to end was far more interesting and it became quite a page turner for a while.  I loved the ideas more than the actual book, but it was an easy, unusual story that I’m glad that I read.

are you watching me? – sinéad crowley

Are You Watching Me – Sinead Crowley

I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Liz Cafferky has her own past, but she is pushing through this to promote the work of the drop-in centre for men where she has been working for a while, to try and pay her dues to founder Tom, who rescued her from her own demons.  However, when men start being murdered, and their only connection is the centre where she works, Liz starts questioning everything – even whether she could be the next to die.  Can Liz escape her past – and the killer?

I hadn’t read ‘Can Anybody Help Me?’ which was the début novel from Sinéad Crowley, and apparently her first featuring Sergeant Claire Boyle of the Irish Garda in Dublin. And having read this second in the series, I don’t really feel that it is necessary, as the book definitely stands alone. However, I understand that there may be some who have read the first and may have a vested interest in this novel as they may have already bonded with Claire, especially as she has returned to her role after a few months maternity leave – and all that brings for her and her family.

Coming to this book as a Crowley virgin however, I almost felt that there was too much emotional and personal content about Boyle, and I didn’t buy into it. I understand that all those that HAVE read the first book may already feel that they have a history with her, and may have got more from those parts of the story.

The actual thriller was OK, no great shakes, but cruised along as a fair enough page-turner. I DID actually want to know what happened, I was invested enough to care, but didn’t feel that there was enough excitement to make it stand out amongst others that I have read.

The parts with Boyle and her baby and her husband kind of slowed the pace down, and that may have been on purpose, to add to the next in the series, but as a brand new reader to the Boyle series, it was just an irritation. Perhaps you actually NEED to read ALL the books in this series!

Are You Watching Me? by Sinéad Crowley will be published on 2nd July 2015.

traces, peacock theatre

Traces - The 7 Fingers
Traces – The 7 Fingers

Last night I managed to get last minute tickets to take my daughter to see Traces at the Peacock Theatre.  Traces is the latest show from The 7 Fingers (Les 7 doigts de la main) from Quebec.

Aged between about 23-27, the 7 performers were actually from all over the globe, Canada, USA, Australia, France & China – and we knew that because they actually told us during the show.  It was actually a lovely twist to inject some personality and a LOT of humour into their performance. It certainly made my 15 year old have a favourite (Kevin from the USA whose trapeze dance she particularly enjoyed).

They certainly had a lot of skill between them – all were fantastic acrobats and very cool clowns (not a painted smile in sight, but the clowning was certainly part of the act), but individually there were outstanding performances on the trapeze, Chinese pole, Chinese hoops (as per photo), hand to hand, teeterboard, diabolo, cyr wheel and aerial strap.

I have seen all of these on stage before, and possibly by more ‘polished’ troupes, but there was something wonderfully quirky, fun and totally engaging about Trances that had the audience on their feet giving them a standing ovation as soon as they had finished.

And my daughter? She thinks EVERYONE should go and see it 🙂  They’re on at the Peacock until 12th July.

me before you – jojo moyes (audiobook)

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Lou Clark suddenly loses the job that she loves, and her family situation means that she is forced into taking the first suitable role that comes along. This happens to be as a carer for Will Traynor. A young man who has been left as a paraplegic following a motorbike accident.

Lou discovers that she wants to help Will recover his zest for lie, however, Will has something completely different planned.


I’m not really sure where to start. I got this as an audiobook and the narration was absolutely spot on.  I think the main narrator (Lou’s voice) was Jo Hall, but that’s just from the order in which they were listed. She was natural, sounded the right age and exactly how I would’ve expected Lou to sound – brilliant for an audiobook!

However,by no fault of the narrator, I simply didn’t like Lou. The character seemed juvenile, selfish and completely oblivious to the real world.

The situation also felt completely unreal with a rather awkward shift between scenes sometimes. I found it a little odd that someone with no experience of caring for anyone at all (especially someone who seemed so self-obsessed and uncaring) could be left in charge of someone with such needs, with no training at all.

If you took out the fact that Will was a paraplegic, it was a very very bog-standard “Girl is wasting her life away without even realising she’s wasting her life away, doing nothing, and with a boyfriend who takes her for granted MEETS egotistical, snobbish tosser who was a tosser before he went through a life-changing event, and is now a tosser for a completely different reason. Together they manage to smooth / rough each other’s edges and realise that life isn’t that bad after all.”

The only difference was the immense difficulties in the life of a paraplegic, and how it affects those around them, and eventually, the right to die if that’s what they choose.

Personally, that was the most interesting part of the story, and yet the least explored. It was all about Lou’s shallow feelings, and falling in love with Will and dealing with HER grief.  For me, it kind of made the actual deep crux of the story feel unimportant, and almost belittled.

However, I will admit, I know that I am in a minority. Almost everyone I know that has read this book says that it is a total must-read, a wonderful book and an absolute tear-jerker. As someone who cries at almost everything, I was expecting to be almost bed-ridden with grief for a few days, but as it was I just felt rather cross.

I fully expect to suffer a barrage of abuse for my review.

If you want a fluffy chick-lit rom-com with a slight edge to it, this is for you. If you want a perceptive glimpse into dealing with someone who wants to exercise their right to die, and the effect that it has on those around them, I would suggest looking elsewhere. Apparently there is a film about to be made too.

the woodcutter – kate danley

The Woodcutter – Kate Danley

“The Wood did strange things to humans, especially humans who had a distant touch of the fae within. It turned them from ordinary people into mad hermits, cannibals who ate children thinking they were made of gingerbread, and people who swore thay had been asleep for one hundred years.”

I am an admin for a wonderful (extremely popular) book lover’s group on Facebook, and I decided to ‘use’ the members the other day.

I wanted a book that was whimsical, fairytale-like. Something escapist and reminiscent of the Grimms.  I couldn’t have got a better recommendation from a member – and even better, it was listed in Kindle Unlimited , so no extra cost!

A young woman is found dead in the forest by the Woodcutter, only her chipped glass slippers hinting at her identity.  The Woodcutter is the Keeper of the Peace, and guards the Wood which acts as a barrier between the Twelve Kingdoms of Man and the Realm Of The Fae.  He needs to find the maiden’s killer and ensure that there are no other murderous plots afoot.

This book was exactly what I wanted – a tale of faery and whimsy. Beautifully written, the prose was evocative and could have been written any time in the last few hundred years – apart from perhaps the crack whore in the night club – although she was still handled very delicately and didn’t seem to clash with the style of the rest of the story!

The tale purposely played on the fairy tales that everyone is familiar with – Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack & The Beanstalk, Rapunzel etc. It became fun to try and work out who each character was before it was made obvious.  The murderous plot could have just been another fairytale wound in amongst the others – and indeed it was.

I think many people forget just how violent and gruesome the actual Grimm’s tales were before they became Disneyfied.  Danley manages to make her story beautiful, yet violent and cruel, showcasing the best and the worst of people.

I know that this wont be for everyone, but if you’re prone to a bit of whimsy, a bit of magic and a bit of the fairy dust with your murders, this is a fantastic yet easy read – and look how gorgeous that cover is!

the lost art of sinking – naomi booth

The Lost Art Of Sinking – Naomi Booth

I received this as a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

I must admit, when I first saw it, I was expecting a full length novel, but at just 137 pages, it is most definitely just a short novella.

The blurb states that the girls of Class 2B have been perfecting the art of fainting. I found this first line really intriguing, as I did the first part of the story.

Esther, like many girls in her class have been holding their breath or hyperventilating and competing amongst themselves to see who can be the first to pass into a graceful faint.

Although set in North England, for some reason, this had a whiff of the Japanese about it – I could imagine it being a typical Japanese schoolgirl obsession, so the juxtaposition with hearty English girls compared to my internal pictures made it even more compelling.

I really wanted to know more about the schoolgirls, why they had ALL started doing this, what made them continue, how they practiced, but we only followed Esther’s story, and the story left school and followed her through relationships and her life where she continued the practice.

I did enjoy the gentle following of what on the surface was the life of a ‘normal’ young girl leaving home and seeking her own place in the world through varying relationships, coming to terms with the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death and her interaction with her father. However, I felt that the auto-asphyxiation part of it was just an addition to add an interesting element to a rather dull character.

I would have loved more of the group mentality surrounding it, rather than following Esther alone.

An unusual, interesting little story, but not one that I think will stay with me particularly.

 The Lost Art of Sinking by Naomi Booth will be published on 1st June 2015.

the accident – c l taylor

The Accident – C L Taylor

Oh Sue. Poor poor Sue. Everything awful that could ever happen to a woman has happened to Sue, and now her 15 year old daughter is in a coma after being hit by a bus. Sue is convinced that this was a suicide attempt, but nobody else believes her, and obviously this means she’s mad as she has suffered from mental illness in the past.

This book started out so well, with such promise, and I felt that the beginning had come as an inspiration to the author. However, the inspiration soon fizzled out, leaving a formulaic plot, with unlikeable and unbelievable characters acting out increasingly unlikely scenarios.

the nightclub scene was hilarious – I don’t know of any London nightclub that would have an issue with a 43 year old woman gaining access (and being a 43 year old London woman, I felt quite affronted!). But even the hilarity of THIS scene paled compared to the climax which I did have a giggle at.

Even the sentences seemed to lack enthusiasm, not knowing when to stop – they just seemed to go on and on for no reason (apart from racking up the word count). Less is more. And in this case, more was most definitely less.

I probably would have left a short, non-committal review but the icing on the cake was the sentence “He probably thinks I’m about to do a Sylvia Plath and walk into the sea.” Oh dear. Now, that jarred with me, but I thought “Oh no – I must have got my Plath and Woolf mixed up!” so I did a quick Google to check. Perhaps the author should have done a quick Google herself before she hit ‘Publish’.

the invisible library – genevieve cogman

The Invisible Library

Irene is a librarian, but not just your run-of-the-mill librarian. Following in her parents’ footsteps, she is a professional spy for THE Library. A mysterious, secretive library that straddles parallel worlds. The librarians of the invisible library are tasked to ‘obtain’ and bring back pieces from the various alternative worlds. Many have just a few words different in one alternate, whereas some only exist in one, and this is what makes them valuable.

Irene is tasked with travelling to an alternate London with her new trainee, the enigmatic (and handsome) Kai where her search for the book is not as easy as she would have liked – not only does this alternate have magic and fae, there are also vampires and werewolves thrown into the mix. Airship transport and lack of long-distance communication have to be factored in, as well as attack alligators!

With only her knowledge, cunning and use of ‘the Language’ to convince objects to do as she’d like, Irene soon realises that she may be a little out of her depth.

There are some brilliant ideas in this – and book lover is going to go mad over the idea of LIBRARIAN SPIES!! However, there seemed to be more ideas than depth of story. I can completely forgive this as it IS so full of ideas, and because the characters are very well drawn.

This was only published a couple of weeks ago, and Goodreads is pitching it as ‘The Invisible Library – Book 1’ – another reason that I am willing to forgive the story depth, as I feel that this may well be the set-up of a fantastic series.

Don’t get me wrong – there is plenty of action – it’s a rip-roaring adventure that drags you through the streets and residences of an alternative London by the scruff of your neck – sometimes at altitude! And if no second book is forthcoming, I will still be happy to have read this one.

It’s no Rivers of London or The Eyre Affair, but kind of a low-budget mix of the two – so if you like those series, then you will like this too.

elizabeth is missing – emma healey (audiobook)

Elizabeth Is Missing

“Elizabeth is missing!”

This thought comes to 82 year old Maud frequently.  Sometimes she’ll have been thinking about something completely unrelated – the best place to grow marrows perhaps, who that strange woman is in her kitchen, or who moved her staircase.  But suddenly, she’ll remember that she hasn’t seen her best friend for quite some time (although she isn’t really sure when exactly she last saw her) or she will find one of her own handwritten notes, reminding her of Elizabeth’s strange disappearance.

Maud’s daughter Helen doesn’t seem to be taking her concerns seriously, although Helen gets very serious about many of the other things that Maud does – like trying to cook for herself.  And when she goes to the police, they already seem to know the story, and yet they also aren’t trying to find Elizabeth. They just tell her that she needs to stop contacting them – although Maud doesn’t remember having done so before.

Maud’s concern about Elizabeth and the changes ion her own life start to get confused and her mind is cast back to the years after WWII when her own sister Sukey went missing under mysterious circumstances. A mystery that was never solved.

This story has been so beautifully written. The care and the attention and the heart-break of ‘witnessing’ someone falling into dementia / Alzheimers is extremely carefully handled. Although you feel sorry for Maud, it’s never in a belittling way, and it makes me wonder whether the author has been close to someone that has been affected like this.

With Maud being such an unreliable witness, the two ‘disappearances’ are intriguing, as well as frustrating as you know that you are never getting the full story – just little snippets with allusions to more that you have to grab for yourself as clues.

Over the course of the book, Maud’s memory becomes increasingly worse – she can’t always remember the name of things – “The bed for sitting on” instead of “sofa” for example.

If you’re expecting an exciting thriller, this isn’t really the book for you. The real ‘thriller’ aspect comes far more towards the end of the book once we have been given all the clues about what has happened to both Sukey and Elizabeth.

The majority of the story is following Maud’s rambling consciousness, which in itself is fascinating. We, as the audience, read that she’s gone to make herself a cup of tea, and then wandered off, and then feels thirsty and wonders why she hasn’t had a cup of tea for so long, and then wanders back to the kitchen to find the kettle surprisingly warm. We see Maud’s memory loss even though she doesn’t.

Many people, like myself, will have witnessed a family member that has gone through this. It really is heart-breaking, especially when they don’t recognise you, as Maud occasionally finds with Helen and her granddaughter Katy.

There are echoes of Before I Go To Sleep and (the film) Memento in this, but it is truly unique. A fascinating book.

I actually listened to this as an audiobook, and I have to say that Anna Bentinck’s narration is absolutely spot on! It really, really adds something to the whole story – her characterisation is perfect. So, if you are an audiobook lover, this is certainly one to get!

a series of increasingly impossible acts, tricycle theatre

A Series Of Increasingly Impossible Acts

Could you eat a whole lemon? Can you move a car wheel by the power of your mind alone?  Can you fold yourself into a suitcase?

These are part of a series of impossible acts that the guys of The Secret Theatre Company attempt in this show.

As we took our seats at the lovely Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn (I haven’t been there since seeing Adrian Lester in Red Velvet!), the young cast were already on the stage ‘warming up’, as if they were about to run a 100m.  Members of the group then came and had a chat with various members of the audience – I had a lovely chat with Nadia. So far, so ‘different’!

Pens and paper were then handed out to about a dozen people and they were asked to simply write down the name of one of the cast. It was then down to one audience member to pick one of the names out of the hat – to randomly choose which of the cast would be the night’s protagonist. This ensures a different show every night – although I expect the underlying themes etc would be the same.

Last Friday, we had the lovely Cara Horgan as our protagonist. So, she introduced herself, and attempted the impossible acts.

What came next is difficult to explain. This is less a show, and more a 70 minute out-pouring of genuine memories and emotions from the night’s protagonist – from the awkward first kiss, to school dances, broken relationships, remembered misdemeanours and heartfelt confessions, fit into structured ‘scenes’. Aided by the rest of the cast, Cara guided us through her highs and lows including full-on wrestling, downing a bottle of beer and a full cast dance routine.  A friend was around for one of the shows where there was a Q&A afterwards. Apparently the way the show goes has a lot to do with the cast member’s state of mind on the night as much as anything!

It’s poignant, thought-provoking, honest, quirky and endearing – even though occasionally I wasn’t all together sure what I was watching.  There were laugh out loud moments, and moments that were harder to watch. I have to admit, there were moments that it felt slightly similar to Losers – but in a good way!!

It was so entertaining that I want to take my daughter to see it and am more than happy to watch the whole thing again – especially as there would probably be a different protagonist considering there are 10 cast members.

A Series of Increasingly Impossible Acts is showing at the Tricycle Theatre until 31st January. You can buy tickets here.

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