book reviews , different studio guests each week. Join us every Thursday between 12 and 1pm on Radio Scilly 107.9fm or log on to radioscilly.com.

Missed any programmes? See below for list of guests, books and other details discussed.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

SHEILA HANCOCK - MISS CARTERS WAR

Review written by Babs Simpson and read live on the bookshow 13th November 2014 

THIS IS A VERY ENJOYABLE FIRST NOVEL BY SH WHOSE AUTOBIOGRAPHY, THE TWO OF US, ABOUT HER LIFE WITH HER LATE HUSBAND JOHN THAW, WAS A MOST DESERVED HUGE SUCCESS.
THE EPONYMOUS HEROINE, MARGUERITE CARTER, IS HALF FRENCH AND WE JOIN HER AS A YOUNG WOMAN JUST STARTING OUT ON HER CAREER AS AN ENGLISH TEACHER IN A LONDON GIRLS GRAMMAR SCHOOL NOT LONG AFTER THE END OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR.  WE LEARN THAT SHE WAS IN SPECIAL OPS EXECUTIVE THROUGH A ERIES OF FLASHBACKS, THAT THEIR PARENTS HAD BEEN KILLED BY THE NAZIS AND THAT SHE HAD A BRIEF PASSIONATE AFFAIR WITH ONE OF THE MEMBERS OF A FRENCH RESISTANCE GROUP SHE HAD BEEN SENT IN TO HELP.
MARGUERITE ENJOYS HER NEW JOB AND MAKES A FRIEND OF A FELLOW TEACHER, TONY, FALLING IN LOVE WITH HIM BEFORE HE ADMITS TO BEING GAY - THIS AT THE TIME WHEN IT IS A CRIMES AND HE COULD BE IMPRISONED IF THE TRUTH CAME OUT.  SO A CLOSE FRIENDSHIP DEVELOPS AND TONY INVOLVES MARGUERITE IN HIS QUEST FOR JUSTICE AND FAIRNESS IN ALL ASPECTS OF LIFE IN THE 50'S WHERE NONE EXISTS.  TONY AND MARGUERITE ARE PASSIONATE SOCIALISTS AND EVENTUALLY MOVE TO A NEW COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOL TO PURSUE THEIR CAREERS WORKING UNDER A VISIONARY HEADMASTER WHOSE RADICAL IDEAS ARE MOST UNPOPULAR WITH THE ESTABLISHMENT.
THEN MARGUERITE MEETS JIMMY, A FORMER RAF BOMBER COMMAND PILOT ON A CND MARCH AND TONY FALLS IN LOVE WITH DONALD, A PRINCIPAL DANCER WITH THE ROYAL BALLET BUT THEY REMAIN CLOSE FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES.
THE BOOK EXPLORES ALL THE FAMOUS POLITICAL CAUSES AND CONFLICTS OF THE MID 20TH CENTURY ONWARDS AND ALTHOUGH IT COULD NOT BE DESCRIBED AS POLITICALLY IMPARTIAL IT IS TOTALLY ACCURATE IN ITS DEPICTION OF HOW THINGS WERE, HOW OUR LIVES GRADUALLY CHANGED WHAT WE DID AND WHAT WE WORE - EVERYTHING.
SHEILA HANCOCK HAS GOT A WONDERFUL EYE FOR DETAIL AND EAR FOR VOICES AND THE STORY IS ABSORBING.  I CARE DEEPLY ABOUT MARGUERITE AND TONY AND WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM
THANK YOU VERY MUCH MS HANCOCK

LISA JEWELL - THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN

Review written by Babs Simpson and read live on the bookshow 13th November 2014 

LORELEI BIRD IS MARRIED TO COLIN AND THEY HAVE FOUR CHILDREN - MEGAN, BETH & TWINS RORY AND RHYS.  THEY LIVE IN A LOVELY COTTAGE IN THE COTSWOLDS AND ON THE FACE OF IT LIFE IS IDYLLIC.  BUT OF COURSE, THIS IS A FAMILY AND A WE ALL KNOW ALL FAMILIES HAVE SECRETS.
LORELEI'S DESPERATE ATTEMPTS TO GIVE HER CHILDREN THE PERFECT CHILDHOOD GO HORRIBLY WRONG ONE DREADFUL EASTER Sunday AND THE GLOSS BEGINS TO LOSE ITS PERFECTION.   FROM THAT DAY ON, LORELEI WILL NOT THROW ANYTHING AWAY - EVEN THE MOST MUNDANE AND ORDINARY ITEM HOLDS MEMORIES AND FEELS AND SHE WILL NOT BE PARTED FROM EVEN THE HUMBLEST SWEET WRAPPER.  THIS COMPULSIVE HOARDING BECOMES MORE AND MORE EXTREME UNTIL THE HOUSE IF FULL OF JUNK EVERYWHERE.
THE MARRIAGE AND FAMILY GRADUALLY BREAK UP UNTIL LORELEI IS ALONE AND WE FOLLOW HER LIFE THROUGH THE EMAILS SHE SENDS TO A MAN SHE HAS MET ON THE INTERNET.  COLIN EVENTUALLY FINDS HAPPINESS, MEGAN CONCENTRATES ON HER OWN FAMILY AND ON KEEPING THEIR LIVES NEAT, CLEAN AND UNCLUTTERED; BETH SEARCHES FOR HAPPINESS AND RORY DROPS OUT, LIVING INITIALLY IN SPAIN THEN THAILAND.
THIS IS A WONDERFUL READ AND AN EXTRAORDINARY STUDY OF A COMPULSIVE HOARDER.  ALL THE CHARACTERS ARE VERY WELL WRITTEN AND SITUATIONS AND PLACES VIVIDLY DESCRIBED.  POOR LORELEI IS TOTALLY SYMPATHETICALLY WRITTEN ALTHOUGH QUITE INFURIATING AT TIMES AND THE READER FOLLOWS HER DETERIORATION WITH INCREASING HORROR AND SADNESS.
I QUITE UNDERSTAND WHY THIS BOOK WAS IN THE BESTSELLER LIST FOR SO LONG.  IT IS VERY, VERY GOOD.


Cheryl Richardson - The Art of Extreme Self Care - Transform your life one month at a time

Review written by Ro Bennett and read live on the bookshow 20th November 2014 


I thought this was an excellent book to read for those busy, busy people who now have a bit of time now they are recovering at the end of the season and before psyching themselves up for the Christmas hectivity! Ultra busy people tend to neglect themselves, which can be very detrimental to their health and well being. I know when I was younger, I just seemed to be hurtling from one thing to another.

It is divided into twelve chapters. The idea is that you read through the book first and then take a month to work on each potentially life-enhancing section. Each chapter has advice, strategies, exercises, book lists and resources to help the reader change their life experience for the better. 

In the first month, you identify those areas of your life where you feel deprived - for instance, sleep, emotional support, personal time, time with your partner and so on. Subsequent chapters deal with self approval, how to say no without offending, how to re-schedule your life and insulate yourself from life’s stresses, release anger safely, transform your home and work environment so they are nurturing, and monitor your health etc. - practical advice on how to better look after yourself more effectively and improve your quality of life. 

Cheryl Richardson previously wrote a book called Take Time for your Life. This was a seven step programme for creating the life you want. In it she invites the reader to explore, amongst other things,  their priorities, and to pinpoint what in their lives is draining them. She encourages the reader to look at how they might better juggle their time and suggests they create an Absolute Yes list -  this is a list of priorities which will inspire you to use your time differently. On this list might be things like, Relationship with partner, and children, Emotional and physical health, time with friends etc.  She suggests that when making any decision it’s a good idea to ask yourself, ‘Is this an absolute yes?’ It’s a good litmus test when making all sorts of choices. 

In the Art of Extreme Self Care, the author suggests an Absolute No List. This is a list of things you no longer do or would like to stop doing to protect your energy and improve your quality of life. She asked several friends to share their examples which she has included. Some of these are: 

My Absolute No List - I no longer 
  • Jump out of bed in the morning, I give myself the time and space I need to start the day in a serene and relaxed state
  • Compromise my needs to keep peace with anyone
  • Argue with people who see debating as a sport
  • Finish reading books that lose my interest
  • Feel the need to check my e mails multiple times a day
  • Feel bad about saying No when no is what’s best for me…etc.

Both books have very good sections. Some of it didn’t seem relevant for me personally - it might appeal to those who aren’t so long in the tooth and have more pressing demands on their time and energy and need help in managing them. Both books are certainly worth reading because there are some very valuable and helpful tips and suggestions for those struggling to balance the demands of career and family or trying to find some peace of mind in the midst of chaos. You can always skim over the bits which don’t apply or don’t interest you and focus on what is useful. So I would certainly recommend them both. 

Needless to say I sent this book to Kerensa, and needless to say her reply was that she would look at it when and if she had time…

Billie Letts - The Honk and Holler - Opening Soon

Review written by Ro Bennett and read live on the bookshow 20th November 2014
I absolutely loved this book. I previously read Billie Letts' previous book Where the Heart is, which led me to watch the DVD. Both were excellent so I looked into what else she might have written, not really expecting it to be as gripping - but to my surprise and delight I enjoyed the Honk and Holler even more than Where the Heart is and I would love it to be made into a film. 

Official Blurb:
Caney Paxton wanted his cafe to have the biggest and brightest sign in Eastern Oklahoma - the "opening soon" part was supposed to be just a removable, painted notice. But a fateful misunderstanding gave Caney the flashiest joke in the entire state. Twelve years later, the once-busy highway is dead, the joke is old, and the sign is as worn as Caney, who hasn't ventured outside the diner since it opened. Then on a blustery December day, a 30ish Crow woman blows in with a half-dead three-legged dog in her arms and a long-buried secret on her mind. Hiring on as a carhop, Vena Takes Horse is soon shaking up business, the locals, and Caney's heart...as she teaches them all about generosity of spirit, love, and the possibility of promise - just like the sign says.

The book is set at Christmas 1985. Caney, a wheel-chair bound Vietnam vet who is riddled with guilt and pain has run the Honk and Holler Diner for twelve years with four times married waitress Mollie O. She is the salt of the earth, constantly worrying herself sick about her beloved would-be-actress daughter.  Things don’t look too good for the prospects of the diner as business has slumped over the years. Then along come the beautiful young Crow Indian drifter Vena Takes Horse and shortly after, Vietnamese refugee Bui Kanh, a cook and handyman who barely speaks English and who, like Vena Takes Horse,  also hides a guilty secret. Life at the Diner begins to get interesting… 

This book is just brimming with wonderful, interesting, likeable, complex   characters you soon become engrossed in. I was wrapped up in their individual stories and how they unfolded - their pain, joy, fears and hope. 
I loved the pathos, the drama, the suspense, the humour and the feel good factor.  It made me laugh out loud and bought a tear to my eyes in places. 

It was a rich, relaxing, easy going, page-turning and very entertaining book which I really didn’t want to end. It was heart warming and lovely. 

Charity Norman - The Son-in-Law

Review written by Maggie Perkovic and read live on the bookshow 20th November 2014
This is a cracker, page turner or what!!
The book starts with a terrified young girl Scarlet, calling for help for her
Mum who is lying down and apparently unconcious.
The respondent is trying to help and advise. How to give first aid instructions
which Scarlet gives to her dad and he is trying to get her heart to work.
All very emotive, her younger brother s crying, the baby is screaming.
Music is playing and as the ambulance is nearly there Scarlet is asked,
"How did you Mum fall down" She answers Dad punched her!!!
Fast forward some years and the three chidren are living with their
maternal grandparents as their mother never regained conciousness.
They seem happy with Granny and Grandad and life is good, then the father
is released from prison and wants contact.
So continues an absorbing and contentious story. Grandparents loathe and
despise the man who killed their only daughter and we feel for them, but wait
Zoe, the daughter had a problem, suffering from Bi polar she could be
wild and difficult. They used to love their dad. He was jailed for manslaughter
not murder, has he a right to see the younger  brother now wetting the bed
Scarlett has nightmares, baby Ben, now four years old becomes impossible to live with.
Who's right??? The decision the Judge takes causes quite an upheaval and the
ending takes your breath away. I loved it and find her a courageous writer.
Totally recommended. Maggie Perkovic.

Richard Flanagan - The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Review written by Maggie Perkovic and read live on the bookshow 20th November 2014
 This was the Booker price winner for 2014 and although I am sure
it is very worthy I was not quite so impressed as the Judges.
The story is of a very brave Doctor Dorrigo who does as much as
he can to lighten the burden of prisoners of war building the railway
and suffering under the brutality of the Japanese Army.
You also are enlightened to the problems that their guard suffers
and his officer while trying to get the notorious railways built.
Yes, good, but we have to suufer flash backs of the surgeon's love
affair with his uncle's wife which is tedious, prolonged and pretty
nauseous!!!I think it actually got a mention in the awards for
rubbish amorous descriptions. You feel a great dislike for Amy,
and for Dorrigo's part in the affair most of the time.
I didn't like this book and having read a lot of books about the suffering
of the building of the railway felt this was very poor in comparison.
Not a recommendation from me. Maggie Perkovic.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Military Wives

book review written & read live on bookshow by Maggie Perkovic 13/11/14
 Military Wives is the stories of all the ladies who took part in the triumphal
choir that stormed to the top of the Hit parade with "Wherever you Are". It shows
how a desparate collection of ladies brought together by the lovely choir master
Gareth Malone found such a joy in singing and meeting together and sharing
their worries and concerns about their loved ones all serving abroad.
My son a long serving soldier in the Army swore he would never put a woman through
all the problems that Service wives have to endure and they certainly have a lot
to put up with. Moving to a new home and town and schools for children. Cleaning
up the new house they have moved into, besides cleaning out the old one. Mending
broken facilities all often without their man besides them.And of course the
terror of knowing their husbands could be the next one to be killed in action.
Months alone and even when the man is home half of him is still with his friends
and with life on the front line. Post traumatic stress rears its ugly head often.
If you are in a posting where you are in a minority, perhaps a naval wife among
Army ones, not very happy, if you are a new wife, or one without children that is
also difficult. I take my hat off to these ladies we owe them our thanks for the
support they give the men fighting on our behalf. Recommended Maggie Perkovic