Saturday, May 05, 2018

Odd Girl Out by Laura James

 They said:- What do you do when you wake up in your mid-forties and realize you've been living a lie your whole life? Do you tell? Or do you keep it to yourself? Laura James found out that she was autistic as an adult, after she had forged a career for herself, married twice and raised four children. Odd Girl Out tracks the year of Laura's life after she receives a definitive diagnosis from her doctor, as she learns that 'different' doesn't need to mean 'less' and how there is a place for all of us, and it's never too late to find it. Laura draws on her professional and personal experiences and reflects on her life in the light of her diagnosis, which for her explains some of her differences; why, as a child, she felt happier spinning in circles than standing still and why she has always found it difficult to work in places with a lot of ambient noise. Although this is a personal story, the book has a wider focus too, exploring reasons for the lower rate of diagnosed autism in women and a wide range of topics including eating disorders and autism, marriage and motherhood. This memoir gives a timely account from a woman negotiating the autistic spectrum, from a poignant and personal perspective.

What I thought:-

An absolutely fascinating account of living with autism which, as the song says, is different for girls.  The Rosie books by Graeme Simsion, and A Boy Made of Blocks, by Keith Stuart, are enjoyable to read as well as informative, but Laura James's experiences have been rather different and I found them very relatable.  There is food for thought not only in respect of autism but also in how we fail to respect and celebrate the differences we all have, and how we have to conform in order to deal with the world, instead of being able to find the way that individually works best for us.  It is a really well written book, and an engrossing and illuminating read.

Friday, March 02, 2018

On The Bright Side by Hendrik Groen

They said: A funny but also touching diary praised for its wit and realism' BBC Radio 4 Front Row The Old-But-Not-Dead Club return, in the sequel to the INTERNATIONALLY BESTSELLING The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old, bringing with them some life-affirming lawlessness. Chaos will ensue as 85-year-old Hendrik Groen is determined to grow old with dignity: to rise up against the care home director. NO more bingo. NO more over-boiled vegetables. NO more health and safety. 85-year-old Hendrik Groen is fed up to his false teeth with coffee mornings and bingo. He dreams of escaping the confines of his care home and practising hairpin turns on his mobility scooter. Inspired by his fellow members of the recently formed Old-But-Not-Dead Club, he vows to put down his custard cream and commit to a spot of octogenarian anarchy. But the care home's Director will not stand for drunken bar crawls, illicit fireworks and geriatric romance on her watch. The Old-But-Not-Dead Club must stick together if they're not to go gently into that good night. Things turn more serious, however, when rumours surface that the home is set for demolition. It's up to Hendrik and the gang to stop it - or drop dead trying . . . He may be the wrong side of 85, but Hendrik Groen has no intention of slowing up - or going down without a fight. Praise for Hendrik Groen 'A story with a great deal of heart, it pulled me in with its self-deprecating humour, finely drawn characters and important themes. Anyone who hopes to grow old with dignity will have much to reflect on' Graeme Simsion 'There are many laughs in this book but it's so much more than just a comedy. It's a story about how friendship, selflessness and dignity lie at the heart of the human experience. When I'm an old man, I want to be Hendrik Groen' John Boyne 'I laughed until I cried and then laughed and cried some more' David Suchet 'Thoughtful, anxious and gruff... Laced with humour' The Best New Fiction Mail on Sunday 'Amusing [and] wickedly accurate' ***** FIVE STARS Sunday Express 'Highly entertaining ... a fiction so closely based on the observation of real life that it is utterly convincing' Daily Express 'Full of off-beat charm and quirky characters' Cathy Rentzenbrink, Stylist 'Hendrik pens an exposĂ© of his care home. This geriatric Adrian Mole made me laugh and think. Terrific' Fanny Blake, Woman and Home I thought: I have become rather fond of Hendrik Groen and his friends in the Old But Not Dead Club. have read his two books and On The Bright Side continues to explore Hendrik's life in a care home as aging continues to throw its challenges against the desire for a life well lived. The friends organise regular outings and adventures to spice up their lives and to escape into the outside world. There is a lot of fun, some adjustments to be made and some sadness and loss, too. There is so much food for thought within these pages, although I know that some of my older friends have found the original book a difficult read, saying it was a bit close to home. What passes for care in the social welfare system does not not always seem very caring, especially when financial budgets are cut. There is some consideration of whether a life is always worth continuing or whether there is a place for euthanasia. I think that these issues are too often swept under the carpet and we should consider them. Hendrik Groen may tend to the curmudgeonly but he is wryly humorous, humane, thought-provoking and thoughtful, a worthy commentator on life as an octogenarian. I hope he has more to say in the future.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Extremist by Nadia Dalbuono

They said:-

On a hot summer’s morning in Rome, three public places — a McDonald’s, a preschool, and a cafĂ© — come under siege from a group of terrorists who appear to be Islamic extremists. When word comes through that the terrorists will only negotiate with Detective Leone Scamarcio, no one more surprised than Scamarcio himself.

The young man with frightened eyes who speaks to Scamarcio seems anything but in control. He says that Scamarcio is the only person he can trust to care about the truth. Then he gives Scamarcio an unusual list of demands, including that everything must be done without police or intelligence involvement, and within twenty-four hours — or the hostages die.

With his face on every TV screen, and with all of Italy on alert, Scamarcio must race against the clock and elude the grasp of the increasingly unhinged chief of intelligence, Colonel Scalisi, to meet the terrorists’ demands, and to uncover the truth behind the attacks. But, as Scamarcio follows the young man’s clues, he finds that every question seems to turn up five more, and, as usual for this son-of-a-Mafioso policeman, nothing is as it seems.

What I thought:-

A topical, breath-taking and thrilling tale which begins as Rome is hit by a trio of terrorist attacks. Leone Scamarcio is not the obvious choice to negotiate on behalf of the authorities, but it seems he has no say in the matter.  He is reluctant to risk everything he holds dear, but could he live with himself and the consequences if he refuses to get involved?  

So begins a rollercoaster of events as Scamarcio embarks on his dangerous quest to free the hostages and to untangle an extraordinary web of mystery and, perhaps, corruption while trying to protect those he holds dear and to keep himself alive.  

This was a book I found hard to put down, and I enjoyed the extra dimension that the character of Scamarcio has developed in the course of this series (of four novels).  Nadia Dalbuono has written a plot of considerable complexity which makes compelling reading, and so vividly written I could easily visualise the action.  The story really begs to be adapted for screen, but meanwhile it is an engaging and exciting read.