Book review THE BOOK OF WHY by Nicholas Montemarano

This novel is about Eric, the broken author of motivational self help books. Eric has made a fortune by telling people that that can do anything they want if they have a positive attitude and believe it possible. He is broken because, despite all that he has written and the inspirational lectures he has given, he could not stop his beloved wife from dying.

He retires from the world and lives in a remote cottage in Martha's Vineyard with only his wife's old German shepherd dog, Ralph, for company. There he is found by Sam, a woman who has read all his books and believes all he taught. Yet she too is battling problems of her own. Together they begin a journey that is a search for meaning. He tries unsuccessfully to write his next book which addresses the “why” question. This is the real question that Eric and Sam and struggling to answer, namely why is it that when people do all the right things crap still happens?

The book is dark journey through the sub-conscious emotions of desire, love and guilt. The plot is not straightforward and in places confusing and the ending is ambiguous. The characters are not very likeable but become understandable. The book explores the vacuous hype peddled by motivational life coaches and comes to the conclusion that theologians have long known that suffering is a mystery and the things that happen can afflict good and bad people alike. (theodicy?)

For me one of the best parts of the book was the loving portrayal of the dog Ralph who is a constant feature through Eric's life: courtship, marriage and widowhood. At the end of the book the old dog dies and I was left wondering how Eric will live without Ralph. But that is part of the ambiguity of the ending.

Website news

I have a new author website. This has some information about me and my books with direct links to where they can be obtained. 

It is called " Jean de Beurre - Author "

You can find it here

Just read this book Matchbox Memories by Ray Kingfisher

Matchbox Memories is the story of an ordinary family with secrets. Ian has to leave his wife and young boys in the south east to go to Cumbria to look after the Aunt who brought him up while his uncle is in hospital. They have been Ian's parents since he was orphaned at five years old but he has never called them Mum and Dad. His mother is now suffering from Alzheimer's and needs constant supervision. Ian's siblings each have difficult situations in their own lives which they have been keeping secret from the rest of the family. As Ian lives with his mother for a week, caring for her while his father is in hospital, he learns much more about her and in moments of lucidity she hints at secrets from the past that he never knew.

The book is well written as it develops each member of the family as a rounded character. It deals sensitively and humorously with Alzheimer's and the bizarre behaviour and conversations that can take place, especially the continuous repetition of the same questions. Yet throughout this the author always treats the sufferer of the condition with dignity and respect. Ray Kingfisher must have either direct experience of living with Alzheimer's patients or has studied his subject carefully because this is one of the most perceptive fictional accounts that I have read. It accords with my experience of those with the condition and their carers. He portrays accurately the difficulties of being a carer of someone with serious memory loss. Alzheimer's could be a depressing subject matter but this is an uplifting book.

The novel has a moral about the importance of being open in family relationships because of the power of secrets to undermine trust. At the end of the novel the family members reveal to each other the hidden parts of their lives. There is a feeling of release of tension as they each begin to understand the burdens that the others had been carrying alone. There were so many secrets to emerge that I half wished for one member of the family who was not hiding a guilty secret!

It is a very enjoyable read with a warm bitter-sweet humour running through it. I recommend it highly.

Click here to buy this book on Amazon

You can get your copy of my book "Capcir Spring"by clicking HERE if you are in the USA or here if you are in the UK  Thank you

Book review - An invisible sign of my own by Aimee Bender

Review  An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender

This is a well written book with a lovely prose style but the plot is unbelievable and the characters are either not likeable or completely weird.

Mona, the main protagonist is a confused and withdrawn twenty year old who takes solace in numbers. Her relationships with other adults is difficult. Her father became ill when she was ten and since then she has withdrawn more and more from life.  She becomes a primary maths teacher and this novel tells of her experiences with the children and the way she reacts to their needs and how she is challenged and changes as a result.

Mona is hired to be a primary school maths teacher. She has no teaching qualification but has always had a thing for numbers. Perhaps this could happen in the US but most countries expect teachers to be college trained!  She doesn't act rationally and does silly things. I thought the most stupid was taking an axe into her classroom to represent a number “7”. She hung it on her wall which of course led to it being in the hands of a child in a tantrum with disastrous results.

Instead of being sympathetic to Mona I found myself getting annoyed with her for her irrational and incomprehensible behaviour. She shows signs of mental disturbance by knocking on wood in time to her breathing when she gets stressed and by eating soap.  Her next door neighbour is a former maths teacher who now runs a hardware store. He too has a strange relationship with numbers and is also mentally unbalanced.

Fiction is an opportunity to work out how other peoples minds work from the inside. This can work really well and offer unique insights into very different perspectives on the world. Perhaps the best example of this is “The curious incident of the dog in the night time” where the world is seen through the eyes of a person with autism. Unfortunately, I didn't find it worked here, perhaps because the plot was weak and confusing. Also I found the ending to the book unsatisfying as it didn't come to an end but stopped without a resolution. I didn't like the book but others have given it good reviews, so perhaps it was just me!

Jean de Beurre

You can get your copy of my book "Capcir Spring"by clicking HERE if you are in the USA or here if you are in the UK  Thank you

A review of a book I read recently

Book Review

Salmon fishing in the Lebanon” was Paul Torday's first novel that is now also a film. Since then he has been prolific. He has produced interesting, well-written and often comical whilst moving fiction. His latest novel "The light shining in the forest" is no exception, though it is much darker than the previous novels and covers the uncomfortable ground of child abduction, murder and the supernatural.

The main character in the story is Norman, a minor bureaucrat, who has risen through the ranks by playing the system to become the Regional Children's Commissioner (designate) for the North East. Due to political manoeuvring, this new post has been created but policy changes in Whitehall have meant that nothing has been done to give the post-holder a role. As a result he is left on his own with a job title, large salary, and an office with secretary but has nothing to do. Also crucial to the story is the local trainee reporter, Willie, who is desperate to move beyond the parochialism of a local newspaper and become a real investigative journalist. The book conveys an oppressive description of the remote border lands of the Kielder Forest in Northumberland.

Torday gives a critique of much child protection practice and the whole safeguarding industry that has grown up to protect children. The character Norman shows how someone can be very efficient in social work at tick box exercises but have never have anything to do with actual real children! In this sense the book is a critique of our contemporary society's attitude to child protection that sees the only way to counter evil  to be through bureaucracy. The argument goes that evil will not be possible if there are enough checks and procedures to safeguard against it but this book shows that evil can always a way through the most dense bureaucracy.

The novel also has a political dimension as a key element of the plot depends upon the Home Secretary not wanting to lose face through admitting what has happened in secret. He wants to be seen as a clean politician so he can be next prime minister.

There is also a supernatural element to the novel. Some of the major characters have pseudo-religious visions, and hear voices which are totally inexplicable to other characters in the book. They end up being regarded by them as insane. Several of the characters in the book have names of characters from the Christian bible but these are mostly ambiguous to the plot.

The plot has a believable villain (a socio-path who is probably also on the autistic spectrum) whose viewpoint and actions seem very logical in his own mind.

There are two weakness in this novel. The first is the weak characterisation. The lost boy's mother, Mary, disappears from the narrative almost as if the author didn't know what to do with her. Pippa, the leading female in the story is very much a one-dimensional character who never develops. We end the book knowing very little about her despite the crucial part she plays in key parts of the narrative. Secondly, the book suffers from some confusion as there are many points of view. The result is that at certain points dramatic interest is diminished.

Overall this is an excellent, imaginative and compelling story. The middle section especially is particularly gripping. Towards the end I became very annoyed with the establishment and their attempts to manipulate the outcome. After the climax there are still over forty pages in which the author tidies up the loose ends. The very different style to Torday's previous novels may alienate some readers who've got used to the cosy if somewhat manic environment that he created with the more loveable characters there. This is a much darker place and the events that unfold are also much more serious. Child abduction is a particularly nasty, painful subject and overall it is explored with sensitivity. Adding a supernatural element to this confuses the genre of the fiction and could give the reader emotional overload! However, I believe that the book could make a very good film.
Click here to buy the book on Amazon Five Tales of Mystery and Magic - Coffee time short stories eBook: Jean de Beurre: Kindle Store

You can get your copy of my novel "Capcir Spring"by clicking HERE if you are in the USA or here if you are in the UK  Thank you

A drabble

I learnt what a drabble is last week. Here is a definition:

"A drabble is an extremely short work of fiction of exactly one hundred words in length, not necessarily including the title. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space."

I thought I must try and here is my first effort - exactly 100 words of course....

Mike Middleton was anxious every full moon. Ever since kindergarten he had believed that strange and often unpleasant things happened then. He looked out of the window of his flat at the round white globe shining in the cloudless sky.
The empty street below was oblivious to his lonely vigil except for one elderly figure in the shadows. His weary eyes in a skull like face were fixed on Mike, silhouetted in his lighted window.
Mike's anxiety increased as midnight approached and he waited for the town hall clock to strike. And in the shadows below, Death said “Come.”

 You can get your copy of my novel "Capcir Spring"by clicking HERE if you are in the USA or here if you are in the UK  Thank you

Lakeside - short stories for Kindle

The second in the series of Coffee Time Short Stories for kindle is now published. Here is a preview of the cover and the contents:
Five short stories that tell of people dealing with the unexpected. Each story has a twist that will keep you guessing.

In 'Lakeside' Greg's beautiful new girlfriend is a cause of conflict at a barbecue on one of the hottest days of the year. (2200 words)

In 'Why I gave up camping' an unsettling event leaves the author not knowing where to turn. (2620 words)

'The Unlikely Romance of Spiro McEwe' tells how a bizarre hobby can lead to romance with unexpected consequences. (1500 words)

'Peggy's Journey' describes a trip prompted by an article in a local newspaper.  (1800 words)

'Dawn's New Man' tells how a nineteen year old student discovers the disappointment and joy of love.  (1500 words)

Settle down with a cup of coffee and enjoy. 

Volume one of this series of short stories is called “Five Tales of Mystery and Magic”

Available on Amazon for the kindle  $0.99 US  or  £0.77 UK link click here to purchase a copy

The UK kindle link click here to purchase a copy

You can get your copy of my full length novel  "Capcir Spring"by clicking HERE if you are in the USA or here if you are in the UK  Thank you

Cover illustration courtesy of vlado /

My new book on Kindle

Five Tales of Mystery and Magic - Coffee time short stories
My new book - an anthology of short stories  - is now available on Amazon for the Kindle. 
"Tales of Mystery and Magic"

The book contains five short stories where magic or mystery break into the everyday life of an ordinary person. 

This is the first of a series of collections of short stories that I will be publishing - volume 2 is being proof read as I write and the new novel will be out later in the year. Its a busy time!

In the USA it costs $0.99  
follow this link

For Amazon . com

In the UK it costs £0.77 
follow this link

For Amazon

You can get your copy of my novel  "Capcir Spring"by clicking HERE if you are in the USA or here if you are in the UK  Thank you