Other Books 2015

Behind the Character, Alvin Alvin of “Frankly Twisted”: The Lost Files | Guest Post with Kevin 11

You may remember a little while ago I reviewed a book called “Frankly Twisted”: The Lost Files by Kevin 11. “Frankly Twisted”: The Lost Files is the second book in the series which follows the crime fighters of the Brooklyn Police Department in the 23rd Precinct. I loved this new interesting take on the detective genre and the cinematic style of Kevin 11. I find it so inspiring the way that creators today take creative freedom not only of their work but also the publishing, distribution and marketing. “Frankly Twisted”: The Lost Files is published by indie book publishers Flowered Concrete and Kevin is doing a blog tour to offer a behind the scenes glimpse at this gritty world and a chance to get to know the characters a little better. I am thrilled to give you a glimpse of what Kevin has to say about Alvin Alvin (yep that’s his name).


Behind The Character:

For some reason, detective Alvin Alvin is still a mystery to me. For one, despite him being  a really good cop and highly fashionable in style and appearance, there seems to be more beneath the surface that has yet to be uncovered. Many folks are probably wondering what on earth possessed me to name him Alvin Alvin.

For one, I thought it would be really funny to give him the same first and last name. Another reason as to why I named him this way is because I wanted to slightly trick readers into thinking that I had made a typo with his name.

However, when reading both Tales of the 23RD Precinct and as well as frankly TWISTED, readers can see that that is certainly not the case. Going forward, it will be interesting to see where exactly I take him as a character. For one thing, he will definitely have big shoes to fill due to the fact that he will be taking over as Captain of the 23rd precinct. Hopefully by then, we will get a better chance to see not only how he works and interacts with others, but also, go a bit in-depth within his personal life.

I would like to say thanks to Kevin for including Bernie and Books in his tour. You can check out his blog here where you can also find all the other guest post from the tour. “Frankly Twisted”: The Lost Files is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble or via Flowered Concrete.

Other Books 2015

Other Books – The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling Read 12/6/15

Affiliate Link:The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Any Harry Potter fan will tell you that the Harry Potter universe is so much more than 7 books and 8 films. I know for me growing up it felt like a whole parallel universe happening around me that was just beyond my reach but it was incredibly comforting to know it was there. This feeling comes from in the most, the incredible detail that J.K. Rowling went to in creating this world. If you have ever been on Pottermore you know what I am on about. Every character no matter how small has a back story that would make method actors jealous and every detail of everyday life has been considered and perfectly crafted.

You may think I have let my fan girl out a little too much, but I’m am not putting this point forward without any evidence. No. I present to you exhibit A The Tales of Beedle the Bard. This collection of children’s fairy tales from the wizarding world are ingenious. They are incredibly well written fantasy stories in their own right because they perfectly strike the balance of familiar and unfamiliar. They are excellent children’s stories with the kind of morals that society has been brought up on for centuries. If you were just to read the stories in this book you would find pleasure enough.

But then, we are treated the the critical voice of Albus Dumbledore. Through his notes and analysis of the text the reader sees how these stories fall into the context of the wizarding world. We are given an extra glimpse of the universe that so many people around the world fell in love with. I know that I lap up every detail and The Tales of Beedle the Bard keeps the magic real without even a mention of a certain Boy Who Lived. This book is like a mug of hot cocoa on a winter’s night. It wraps you up and takes you back to the comfort and safety of a place so many people found solace in.

This book reminded me why I love Harry Potter. It makes me happy.

Rating: 5/5

Would recommend to: HP loving adults who want to share the joy with there slightly too young children.

Other Books 2015

Other Books – Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro Read 15/4/15

Affiliate Link:Never Let Me Go

I often see a Stephen King quote floating about the internet “good books don’t give up all their secrets at once” and by that definition, Never Let Me Go is a good book.

Our narrator Kathy, sets the scene of her supposedly idyllic childhood at a boarding school called Hailsham. She appears to be recording her memories of her time there in a sort of memoir, as if it might explain something later on. She writes of her school friends, Ruth and Tommy and their guardians at the school especially Miss Laura and the young peoples journey to adulthood and the fate which has always awaited them.

I can’t really say much more without giving the game away and the mystery is so important to the story. Kathy talks to us as if we are an equal “I don’t know what it was like where you were” she tells us before describe something characteristic of Hailsham. This suggest that the reader knows the mystery even though it hasn’t been revealed. In many ways we do. The students at Hailsham are describe by Kathy as “knowing but not knowing” and the reader is in the same position. We know but nothing is ever explicitly explained to us. The parallel to the way the students at Hailsham have all these unspoken rules and understandings is incredibly prominent. As a result, the reader understands the atmosphere at the school through the atmosphere of the novel. This is so cleverly done I could praise it until the cows come home.

This mystery that isn’t a mystery keeps you reading and reading and reading. It isn’t an edge of the seat ‘I MUST SOLVE THE MYSTERY’ sort of page turner it’s just this pull towards understanding, a curiosity that can’t be satisfied. The plot itself is pretty unexciting, in fact I completely forgot about plot whilst reading because I was absorbed in these reminiscences in case there might be another clue, this anecdote, this is going to be the one where I find out the truth.

The characters are so well made by Ishiguro. They are honest human beings who have flaws and make mistakes and hurt other people. Ruth especially with the way she lies reminds me of a girl I went to school with. Kathy’s judgement of her is honest but not unkind so we see the rough and the smooth. Tommy is perhaps a little more romantically portrayed but again Kathy describes him as flawed, normal, human. It makes such a change to see people you recognise from real life portrayed in a novel. So often I find characters different to relate to, as if they were other from me, but it Never Let Me Go Ishiguro creates people who feels so real.

People often call this book science fiction. But ignore them. Ignore them all. This is literary fiction, science doesn’t come into it.

Rating: 4/5

Would recommend to: read when you’re in a happy place. I Imagine it wouldn’t do anything good for the black dog.

Other Books 2015

Other Books – The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank Read 5/4/15

When you know a book is going to be sad it can be quite tough to get started. This was how I felt about Anne Frank’s diary. It is difficult to set out on a journey which you know is going to be upsetting and uncomfortable to face but all the same I am really glad that I made myself read this story.

Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who documented her time in hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. She recorded the lives of her family and others who lived in an attic in Amsterdam through her diary. When the occupants of the annex were discovered they were transported to concentration camps all over Europe. Anne and her sister Margo died in Bergen-Belsen of typhus just a few months before the camp was liberated on this day 70 years ago.

I imagine the majority of the world knows Anne Frank’s story in some form or an other but what I hadn’t bargained for was how much her diary is about growing up. There is an awful lot of “no-one understands me” and other issues that we all face as we move into adulthood and for some reason, I had expected much more doom and gloom. Perhaps that is what makes this diary so moving; in spite of it all, in spite the intense fear and suffering, there is still an essence of normality.

In many ways the diary also examines what the intense pressure of such an enclosed environment does to the relationships between families and people. The arguments, the bickering is portrayed by Anne as an everyday occurrence one that she soon gets bored of documenting. It is also fascinating to watch as Anne grows up and as she begins to empathise with her mother. As she begins to understand her more the reader feels the resentment fall away and be replaced by a sad acceptance.

The most powerful sections for me are the ones about Hanneli, Anne’s close friend, who visits Anne in a dream and becomes a symbol for her for the wider suffering of her friends and people. The diary in general deals so little with the holocaust that these sections contrast strongly and poignantly with the light hearted tone of Anne’s writing. These moments were the ones that brought a lumps to my throat and a tear to my eye and it is largely due to the wonderful poetry of Anne’s writing. Everything else aside, she is a wonderful writer and there is a bitter sweet feel to the fact she was able to become a famous writer if only posthumously.

When the diary ends, so suddenly and without a hint of what is yet to come Hanneli came back to me. I think of the fear they all must have felt after being so close to safety. Just as Hanneli became the personal symbol of suffering for Anne, so Anne has become the personal symbol of the holocaust for me. When we talk about the holocaust we talk about numbers 11 million people, 6 million Jews but that scale is impossible for most people to comprehend. I recently went to Wembley Stadium which houses 90,000 people and I can’t quantify over 1000 times that many people. But what I can understand is a little girl, with hopes and dreams like we all have living everyday in fear and suspense and ending her life much too soon scared and alone and in agony. For that to happen to 1 person is horrific, let alone 11 million more.

Rating: 4/5

Would recommend to: literally everyone, I really mean it this book should be read by everyone.

Other Books 2015

Other Books – Poppy Lung, Alex Caird Read 16/1/15

Affiliate Link: Poppy Lung

I received a copy of this book as part of a Goodreads give away. I had never won any that I had entered before and then this one came along. This is the review I posted as part of the deal of getting a free book. I was a bit worried because this was the first review that I knew the author would read. But I felt that I had to be honest for the sake of my integrity but also because if I were an author trying to get my book published I would appreciate the truth. As it turns out I really enjoyed the book so everything was all right. The author even messaged me to thank me for writing my kind review.

Poppy Lung is described as an homage to Alice and Wonderland and it has many similar elements. However, I’m not a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland, it doesn’t seem to go anywhere for me, but Poppy Lung isn’t like that. It feels much more like Narnia in its language and atmosphere as well as the journey/quest element to it. The part that does reminds me of Alice in Wonderland is the slightly surrealist talking animals.

After Poppy Lung is transported to this fantastical land by a giant crow, she encounters ‘symbols’ of the 4 elements who are all portrayed by talking animals. They tell her stories reminiscent of traditional fairy tales as she travels through a magical land filled with unusual light trying to find a Prince to take her home.

The story is most definitely abstract. I got the feeling that everything that happens plot wise is a device in Poppy Lung’s character development. This is by no means un-enjoyable, in fact I rather liked the dream like way that Poppy Lung wonders through this mystical land never quite sure how she got somewhere but just arriving. This rather regimental plot means that you focus much more on the messages that are being portrayed and I think that this is an excellent way to get younger reads to start to analyse the text.

Some of the language does seem a bit advanced for a children’s book even if its target audience is older children but this story has a lovely sense of discovery. You feel that Poppy Lung is learning about the world and about herself throughout the book. She really grows as a character and I was surprised how much of the story was about her finding her place in the world: I thought it was going to be a bit more ‘fighting off the baddies’. For me this made a nice change. I know when I was a young reader I soon got bored of stories with predictable endings, Poppy Lung is unexpected and a welcome challenge.

Rating: 4/5

Would recommend to: read as a bedtime story as it seems to exist in the space between dreams and reality.

Other Books 2015

Other Books – Let it Snow, John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle Read 2/1/15

Affiliate Link: Let It Snow

My first book of the new year. I had heard a lot bout it, I like John Green it was Christmas and I felt like reading something seasonal.

I should probably talk about my relationship with YA or Young Adult literature. If I’m honest I don’t really like it and it seems to me that I am one of the few people on the internet who feel that way. Every now and again I read a YA book and I enjoy it but I would never usually go into a book store and go to the YA section. Nor would I desperately wait for the new book in a YA series to be released. This isn’t to say that I think YA isn’t proper literature, I disagree with that statement whole heartedly, I just prefer to read about people who are different to me and quite a lot of the time, YA is told from the point of view of teenage girls.

But Let it Snow. First off it is really Christmasy in a rather unconventional way. The snow of course helps but each writer somehow manages to capture that feeling of Christmas when people who would usually scowl at you in the street smile instead. The book is split into 3 stories that all cross over each other at various points. The first story, by Maureen Johnson, was definitely my favourite, I liked the narrator, Jubilee, the most and I found the whole ‘my parents might go to prison over a collectable Christmas village’ hilarious.

The second story, John Green, I wasn’t so hot on and I think it is because I know so many people like the characters of this story. It was silly teenagers doing silly teenager stuff. Some friends set out on a race to a Waffle House which has unexpectedly become host to a squad of cheerleaders. It reminded me quite a lot of the road trip section of Paper Towns, lots of banter, a race against the clock. The part I did like about this story was the romance. It felt plausible, possibly because the characters were so realistic, but it made a nice change to have a love story without bells and whistle that starts with a date to Starbucks.

The final story, Lauren Myracle, oh dear. At first I didn’t like it at all. The narrator Addie is awful and I really thought I can’t put up with this any longer. Then you realise she is supposed to be awful. This last story is about her becoming a better person. Admittedly her transformation is heavily on the side of Christmas Miracle because I have never known anyone go through so much personal development in an afternoon but hey it’s Christmas. This just wasn’t my thing. My only real criticism of this story is that when the stories converge and the characters from the previous two stories appear in Myracle’s, she kills them with her writing. It is such a shame because they just flop and lose all depth. This means the book ends on rather a low point and the ending had such potential if only the other writers had chipped in a little the end could have been glorious.

Rating: 3/5

Would recommend to: make you feel a little fuzzy inside when it’s cold outside.