Unemployed Struggles by Wal Hannington

This book is the memoirs of Wal Hannington from the 1930s. This is the decade remembered for mass unemployment, the decline of the staple industries, the removal of slum housing and the depression. It was an interesting book to read as a primary source for studying the 1930s, however Hannington himself annoyed me. We read about how he was Communist, and was imprisoned for that; how he was an active member of the National Unemployed Workers Movement – and the many clashes with the police he had and all the campaigns he was involved in. It was an interesting read as we don’t hear about him out looking for work, instead we read about him campaigning for better pay for employers, attempting to get trade unions on his side, his problems with the government and the benefits he is on and his general dissatisfaction with the “capitalist government” leadership. Although a very interesting point of view, it was these things about him that annoyed me. I just wanted to tell him to stop moaning and go get a job!! This book was a good historical source, but one must remember Hannington’s bias when reading it.

7/10

Entertaining Angels by Joanna Bell

Synopsis:

Joshua Gilfoyle has decided there are two things he wants from life before he dies: to find his lost son and to commission an artist to produce his lasting legacy – a new angel for Foxbarton church. His family can’t understand why he’s already bidding his life farewell, but Joshua is not a man used to opposition. However Julia, the artist he’s employed, doesn’t believe in angels – unlike her daughter Hebe. Although she’s desperate for the commission, she’s frightened her artistic inspiration has run dry and is beginning to wonder whether making the angel is beyond her ability. But as Hebe’s extraordinary gift begins to affect everyone around her, including even irascible old Joshua himself, there seems to be more than a touch of magic in the air as the mysteries of the past finally begin to reveal themselves…

This is a lovely book. I loved it. Bell addresses the issues of angels, autism and family. She wrote so well, the issues were all delicately dealt with, even the old-fashioned view of mental health. To write about autism and the different views people have on it was brave, but done so well. There are so many stereotypes surrending autism, and Bell raises them and deals with them, setting the record straight.

I loved Julia and Hebe. Julia’s passion and firey character were well written and I felt I connected with her. When she was betrayed and angry, I felt those emotions as well. Hebe I just wanted to hug. She was an angel, I loved her.

There was comedy in this book too, and I often found myself laughing out loud.

My only problem with this book was the emphasis on sex. There was a lot of sex in this book, I didn’t like that.

The story was great and easy to read. I did see the twist coming but that didn’t upset me. I really enjoyed this book.

8/10

A Season of Eden by JM Warwick

Synopsis from Amazon:

He’s my teacher. I shouldn’t be alone with him. But I can’t help that he’s irresistible. I let the door silently close at my back. He stared at me, and a taut quiet stretched between us. “I like hearing you play,” I said, moving toward him. He turned, in sync with my slow approach. He looked up at me but didn’t say anything. I rested my clammy hand on the cold, slick body of the baby grand. “May I?” The muscles in his throat shifted, then he swallowed. “Eden.” My knees weakened, like a soft tickling kiss had just been blown against the backs of them. “Is it okay?” I asked. His gaze held mine like two hands joined. He understood what I was really asking. “Let me stay,” I said. “Please.” “You’re going to get me in trouble,” he said.

I cannot rate this book highly enough. It is the best book I have read in ages. I completed it in two sittings; I was gripped from the first page.

I loved the characters, especially Eden, the protagonist. Warwick wrote her in such an amazing way that I completely connected with her and felt all the emotions she did. I was so in tune with her that when she cried, so did I.

The story was so well written. Warwick explored friendship, love, high school, family, death and music. The description of some of the pieces James played were breathtaking, and I could almost hear them. Watching Eden mature and fall in love was beautiful. Feelings were explained magnificantly. To see broken relationships patched up and repaired was lovely, and realistic. Every issue Warwick wrote about was successful. Even the relationship between Eden and James was sensitively written, and believable. I could easily see this happening in reality, playing out just like it does in the book. James was a lovely character. I fell in love with him too, it is hard not too!

I am so happy to have read this book. Nothing has left my disappointed. I loved the ending, the sense of maturity, adulthood, and adventure into the next chapter of Eden’s life was amazing.

I don’t have a bad word to say about the book.

10/10

Kansas in August by Patrick Gale

Synopsis from Amazon:

In this first novel, Dr Henry (Henrietta) Metcalfe falls for a hitch-hiker, Rufus. A psychiatrist and a teacher, both are intent on concealing their true identities. To complicate this comedy of sexual role reversal, Rufus is having an affair with Henry’s brother, Hilary, who wants to be a father.

I don’t really know what to make of Kansas in August. This is certaintly not the best Gale book I have read. The book seemed disjoined, with random characters flitting in and out of the story. There seemed no definite storyline, we just seemed to follow three character, Hilary, Henrietta and Rufus through odd events which distantly relate the characters to each other. I didn’t like the ending, which I honestly was begging to come. I don’t feel the story is ended and I’m left feeling completely unsatisfied. All revelations could have come a lot earlier in the story. That I think would have made the book improve vastly. It was not a long book, 158 pages, but one I did consider putting down a few times. I didn’t really connect with the characters, there was nothing about any of them that I could relate too. I’m left disappointed really.

4/10

Love on the Dole by Walter Greenwood

This was on my reading list for university, and I am glad I picked it.

Synopsis:

In Hanky Park, near Salford, Harry and Sally Hardcastle grow up in a society preoccupied with grinding poverty, exploited by bookies and pawnbroker, bullied by petty officials and living in constant fear of the dole queue and the Means Test. His love affair with a local girl ends in a shotgun marriage, and, disowned by his family, Harry is tempted by crime. Sally, meanwhile, falls in love with Larry Meath, a self-educated Marxist. But Larry is a sick man and there are other more powerful rivals for her affection. The definitive deception of a northern town in the midst of the thirties’ depression. Walter Greenwood’s “Love on the Dole” was the first novel to be set against a background of mass unemployment and was instantly recognised as a classic when it was first published in 1933. Raw, violent and powerful, it was a cry of outrage that stirred the national conscience in the same way as the Jarrow march.

This is a very graphic look at life in the Industrial North in the 1930s. This was a time where Britain was suffering in the Depression with unemployment, the dole and Means Testing, poverty, poor living conditions and very little money. Love on the Dole is a great depiction of this; written in the ’30s, Greenwood holds nothing back. We see unemployment, the new role of women, leisure activities, poverty, humiliation and love. This has set an accurate image in my mind of the 1930s.

I liked the character of Sally, she was a headstrong, independent girl who knew what she wanted, which was a new identity for women. She was pursued by many men, two of whom I despised! This pleases me because it means I made a strong connection with the book.

Harry on the other hand, he annoyed me some what. He sulked and whinged a lot, however this is probably quite an accurate portrayal of the effect the Depression had on ordinary people.

I enjoyed this novel. It was a good story as well as an excellent historical source.

7/10

Broad Street by Christine Weiser

This is not only the first book by the author Christine Weiser, but it is also the first book to be released by the publisher PS Books, which is part of the literary magazine Philadelpha Stories.

This is another book that had a cover which jumped out at me and immediately made me want to read the book:

Blurb from back cover:

Christine Weiser’s debut novel follows the all-girl rock group, Broad Street, through the highs and lows of struggling for success in the male-dominated, mid-’90s Philadelphia rock scene. When Kit Greene and Margo Bevilacqua make a drunken pact to form a band with the sole purpose of outshining the musical men in their lives, they have no idea what awaits them: gigs in seedy bars, obsessed fans, threats from a stalker, parties with biker gangs, and a seemingly endless quest to secure a steady drummer. Meanwhile, both women must learn to juggle their personal, proffessional, and musical lives, deal with ex-boyfriends, mind-numbing day jobs, and hard-to-please parents as they claw their way to the top of the Philly rock scene.

I really enjoyed this book and read it in two sittings. I was completely engrossed in this book and felt like I was right there alongside them in this struggle.

I loved the girls and how they followed their dreams, even non-music related ones. I was cheering them on during the book, however they did some things I wasn’t too impressed with. I really wanted to see them succeed in the industry and find decent men!!

I think my favourite part involved the bikers in DC. The guys seemed lovely – big, scary looking bikers, who actually were just softies. They made me laugh so much, what an excellent thing to have in the book.

I do wonder if this is a bit auto-biographical as we are told on the back cover that Christine Weiser was a bass player for the Philly band Mae Pang – and Kit plays bass and there the name Mae Pang is subtly entered into the text.

I didn’t like all the drinking, sex and drug taking, and there was a bit of bad language, but I guess Weiser is trying to re-create the ’90s rock scene.

Broad Street was a really enjoyable book.

8/10

Incomparable by Andrew Wilson

Incomparable by Andrew Wilson is a Christian book which looks at the character of God. I purchased it because my brother needs it for his theology training and I really enjoyed it.

This is a very readable book which looks at some of the characteristics of God. Every chapter is short, no more than 6 pages long which makes this an accessible book and easy to dip into. However, there is a lot of theology in this book and even though I was able to read this book in a few days I would like to re-read it slowly to see what I probably missed/didn’t take in.

Wilson writes in a very accessible way and argues every point clearly and concisely, using evidence from both the Bible and other sources. I have learned an awful lot from this book, and there is probably more I can learn when I re-read it.

This is a really informative, enjoyable and easy-to-read book.

9/10