One of us is Lying

By Shalini Boland

The title reminds me so much of the famous ABBA song ‘One of us.’
ABBA were such a great band, you could spot an ABBA tune on the radio, even if you’ve never heard it before, melodramatic, haunting harmonies, the clear nigh on innocent voices of the two female vocalists, angelic incantations that almost always made it into the top ten. You could associate so much with what the lyrics were about, on a sad day you’d be crying away joining in with ‘Fernando’, or joyfully tapping the steering wheel of your Volvo to ‘Take a chance on me.’
Even though it was the same but different every time, it never got boring, even after forty years they still sound great, even though all their songs can sound rather the same, just a different backstory in the lyrics.
Well, you know what I am going to say next? Yes, just like the last two Shalini Boland novels I read. They were very similar in structure, each chapter has a narration from a number of different female characters (in the two I have read anyway) in an onion type of fashion, it is rather bold and provocative in what it is saying, but gradually peeling away bit by bit, until you reach the core, you can kind of get a gist of what it’s going to end up like, but then it’s probably a number of possible endings while you’re reading through the book. coming to a dramatic climax, where you are happy you read it.
The story itself follows the misfortunes of three middle-class ladies who went to school together somewhere in England and the misfortunes that seem to be happening to the three of them. The people around them, their struggles, their children. It is quickly realised that it is all a growing storm which will end in a crescendo that brings them together.
Shalini has a great quality of keeping the reader interested in what’s on the page, she spoke to me anyway. My partner also read the other book that I read; ‘Perfect Family.’ and was suitably impressed too.
I did feel as I read into ‘One of us is lying.’ That I would get bored very quickly when I realised that it was using the same formulaic structure as ‘Perfect family.’ But no, I was kept right there, riveted to my Kindle, which just shows what a great writer Shalini is. Highly recommended, I’m definitely going to delve into a few more volumes for my holidays, hopefully somewhere warm, but with this virus in the news lately, it looks rather doubtful, so rainy beach in Ireland maybe? Doesn’t matter, Shalini will be telling me a story, so it doesn’t really matter, does it? Nothing like a good book etc!
Well done Shalini, * from Dublin, and just like ABBA on that fateful Eurovision night, Shalini you get an ‘Irlande douze points!’
Thanks to Netgalley and Bookoutre for letting take a sneak peek for an honest review.

The Real James Bond

By Jim Wright

An interesting read, though didn’t really follow much direction. Was it a book about James Bond, the secret agent. Or was it a book about Ian Fleming, the author and ex-Royal Navy officer? Or Maybe about ornithology, the study of birds? Or maybe about the history of spying and undercover shenanigans, particularly in relation to Britain and the USA? Or was it about James Bond, the author and ornithologist that Ian Fleming ‘used as the name for 007? Or could it be how secret service agencies used naturalists such as Bond as covert operatives? Ian Fleming himself was a bit of a bird fancier, feathered variety of course. I know many years ago it was thrown around that Fleming’s character was based upon himself, though the author here does draw quite a lot of comparison’s to suggest that the ornithologist Jim Bond could have been clandestine, or not.
Reasonably well written, but I felt that the author really needed to brush up on his punnyness, some puns were a bit corny and tended to raise the eyes ironically to the ceiling rather than laughing out loud.
Worth the 3 out of five stars, for interest value alone, though whether it will stay with me as a book I’ll remember, ask me again in the future what I thought of it?
Also, I think the cover will mislead many to purchase the book and realise it isn’t so much about 007, and more of a meandering ride around middle/upper-class spies/ornithologists in 1940’s Caribbean.

Stealing Smokes

by John Hanlon

The first thing that attracted me to this book was definitely the cover, a car very recognisible from my youth. So initially with the title and the cover, I thought it was going to be an autobiographical work, reminiiscing about a misspent youth or suchlike . Then I read the blurb, realise it is a series of short stories by a guy in New Zealand. I think I’ll give it a go, even though I live on the other side of the world to this gentleman, and may not hold too much common ground.
It isn’t often that I come across such an entertaining book, I would have guessed it was slightly autobiographical, John even refers to certain characters being actual people. I did find too that the author portrayed quite clearly a lot of flaws that show in people’s characters as we travel through life.
A few little interesting stories, some rather surreal, drawing a little from that kind of angels looking down upon us, Mitch Albanesque type vibe going on. Though very entertaining all the same.
Mr. Hanlon seems to have a finger on a pulse that many of us can associate with, especially some of us in the more mature bracket. He also seems to have a sense of humour that tuned in with me. I laughed out loud many times reading it.
Well done John, you have a quality in writing that seems more and more at a lack these days, and that is to be a writer who can communicate with the reader. Too many writers these days are stuck in their own self-indulgence and importance, that they rapidly forget that it is a readership they are writing for. 10/10 for effort in that area.
So from across the seas, I give it five stars from all of us here in the old country. Of course, John, if you ever find yourself in Dublin, give us a shout and we’ll talk books over a pint of the black stuff! All the best, and well done!

The Big Trip Up Yonder. Kurt Vonnegut Jr

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Interesting short story, in the science fiction genre, though seemed very down to earth(no pun intended!)
The story highlights how a new potion has been invented that elongates peoples lives, so the world becomes really over populated with many members of the public living well into their third century. Unfortunately this means that the earth is really overpopulated, presuming that property prices rise. Then whole families live together, so the great great grandfather is living with his children, grandchildren and great grand children etc. The family we see has about twelve people living in a three roomed flat on the umpteenth floor of an infinitely numbered block in a sprawling metropolis.
Of course there are many pressures suffered by such families, and this is the story of this one family, with all its mad eccentricities and arguments etc. 
Really interesting read. One thing that sprung to mind when I was reading this was that it reminded me of how working class families in cities in Britain and Ireland in Victorian times would live maybe fifteen to twenty people in two rooms within run down tenements. Horrific living standards. I suppose the author is more pointing to how medical and technological advances have made peoples lives so much longer and easier. So there could be an ultimate crutch where there are so many people around, that a welfare system is null and void, but still people can live long if not really fruitful lives. Worth a read.
Read this and many other reviews by myself here; https://booksandmoviestoday.wordpress…

Beyond Lies The Wub. Phillip K Dick

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An enjoyable short story, about crew of a spaceship that had to stop off on it’s way between two far stretched destinations to pick up supplies. Whilst there, one of the crew comes back with a pig like creature which he had purchased off a local tribe. The remainder of the crew agree to let it on, and start to discuss how they are going to cook it, carve it and eat it. When speaking about it, the wub, that’s the name of the species of this creature and of course the title of the story, apparently the tribesmen told the crew member this was the name anyway. The wub starts to speak to the crew through there minds, like a psychic voice. It suggests that like the rest of the crew it is a being as much as them. Then we see the story begin.
I know this was written back in 1952 and was one of Dick’s first public pieces, so Dick won’t be too interested in what I have to say now. I really think that this story could have been well expanded into a riveting tale. I was thinking that the wub was going to start to manipulate the crew and turn them against one another, but suffice to say, no it didn’t. Maybe Dick put this out so he could get a bit of feedback to develop the story. Or maybe for one of us to come up with a nice juicy tale off the back of Dick’s making of a masterpiece.
A very short read, you should be through it in about twenty minutes, very entertaining, well worth a look.

The study of animal languages. Lindsey Stern

I have never been a fan of books that seem to throw lots of high brow technical bits and pieces into a mix with an attempt at structural, understandable prose.
This book unfortunately is a very fine example of this. Here we have an intellectual couple, looking rather sour in their marriage. She is writing a report on ornithology and linguistics, which she is about to make a big public presentation of. He is a career lecturer or something similar, constantly sniping at his wife, and really unable to cope with her success, he is also convinced she is going behind his back, relationship wise. Thirdly is her father who is a borderline senile old man who is holding onto his sanity by being very outspoken and loud in a very embarrassing way to the couples detriment.
Characters were cardboard, I could not associate with them at all. Then the author is trying to impress us with her intellectual knowledge through the book. Which sometimes sounds a bit condescending. You know, when the eminent professor walks into the primary classroom and tries to explain something, and it is very much of the tone; I am superior, but I will still explain to you lot anyway. Maybe I have a chip on my shoulder, but thank God for the media of Goodreads etc for giving us the opportunity.

OMFG! D.J.Doyle

A nice follower to Jesus on a bike, a story about Father Jack and his team of exorcist priests, who go around saving poor souls and protecting the world from nasty beasties like demigods and demons. A really enjoyable read, that seemed so long ago that I read it, I read it again with OMFG! Still laughed out loud in the same places, particularly the bit when in the middle of an exorcism of a young lad, the boys mother walks in on the priests at a really crucial point. Father Jack, the main character turns to the mother and says she should leave as this is no way to see her son like this. Then in that real flippant off the cuff Irish way, she says to Jack “Sure Father, I used to be a midwife, this isn’t anything unusual for me, really tickles me still.
OMFG! Continues on, I won’t spoil it, but basically Jack takes charge of the band of brothers(and fathers) after the original leader has to stand down because of illness. Then we follow the new exploits of Jack and his clerics, leading up to where Jack is given the simple task of saving the world in a shopping centre.
Once again, like Jesus on a bike, very well written, very much keeping the interest throughout. A bit of a rant at the first chapter, in one paragraph, Jack is going to visit his sister in the looney bin(as he puts it) then the next he changes the subject. Ok, so it’s a first person thing, and maybe it’s an insight into the character that he is a bit erratic and irritated. I do feel that we should have seen the visit to the hospital, and a little more character building with the sister. After all, she was spoken about so much in the first book. It may have also put a bit more underlined emphasis on the passion with which Jack had taken up his post.
Otherwise the makings of a good series, now I am gagging for more!

Dublin Memory Book.

Clareville centre is a facility and day care centre in Dublin which serves the local community. It published this book, an anthology of short stories, memoirs and poems from a number of its attendees.
Really nice stories, some I have to admit I chuckled to myself. Mostly very well written, and many portray the local vernacular and syntax really well. In the whole, they paint a story of Ireland in times gone by. Not really that long ago either, speaking a lot of their exploits in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Some are about the schoolyard, some sad stories, some humorous. All very readable.
I would have given the publication five stars on that alone. But I did have one hang up, the editing. I cannot recall ever reading a book with so many typos in it. Too many editorial mistakes, should have been proofread a few more times, a shame because otherwise this is a historical gem for local people and families to enjoy. I enjoyed the stories, but just a bit too many things that could have easily been picked up prior to publication. Maybe a second edition is coming? Would love to see.

Book Review: The Handmaids Tail, by Margaret Atwood

Considering that this book was first published in 1985, it certainly seems to show certain prophetic tendancies. People talk of such books like 1984 by George Orwell and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury being warning voices from the past about how certain negative aspects of our lives today have been predicted within the pages of these tomes.
The same can be said, in my opinion about The Handmaids tail. A story of a once free woman, who because of calamitous events that happen in her country. The government takes extreme measures, in reaction to a rise in extreme right winged religeous conservatism. Thus women become second class citizens, completely banned from taking part in activities that they were once free to do on a day to day basis. Like choose who they have relationships with, speak their own mind, drink alcohol, smoke and generally have an equal footing to men.
The main character is a “handmaid” A women who is brought into a family to basically have sex, when required with the man of the house and become impregnated. That she has to walk everywhere outside with a very heavy dress on, coloured bright red and covering her whole body, including face. The masters of these houses have wives too, who wear blue, but do not have babies. When the handmaid has the baby, the family take it, and she may move on to another ‘commander’. Also in the story there are aunts, these are older ladies who police the handmaids, carrying cattle prods. They will carry out instant justice where relevant. If the handmaids are seen to be in anyway wrong, or politically incorrect, they are sent to colonies, where they will spend the remainder of their days doing hard labour.
The book is an obsevation of this horrific dystopian future in the north eastern seaboard. It seems to shout so much to me of how in recent years the rise of religeous fundamentalism, not necessarily in the United states, but elsewhere in the world. Particularly in the middle east and Africa, where civil wars and terrorism give way to the rules of shariah law pushed upon once free societies. Particularly in the line of basic femine freedoms that women once had. I thought it was quite prophetic anyway.
As a read, I felt it was very drawn out, the pace was very slow at times, but it was necessary to create the mood of hope taken away from the main character. How she held so many free opinions about things, and now couldn’t say a word. Only words that could be heard correctly by the right people. Very dark and claustrophobic in its atmosphere. I found it a hard read, but once I got to the end, I realised what a strong read it was. Hopefully religious conservatism will not ride over too many of us in the future. But if it does, maybe this is an incite as to what could be, if we let it happen.

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