Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Goodreads Review ~ The Dallas Mercenary

The Dallas MercenaryThe Dallas Mercenary by M. E. Oren

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recently learned that The Dallas Mercenary is now available in local libraries and I am thrilled for the author. This is a book that should be widely available to adults and young-adults alike, and, in my opinion, should certainly be on school reading lists. A previous reviewer says that Mr. Oren’s book tells a big story. I would agree in that it captures vividly and evocatively the vast distance between the comfortable suburbs of London and the squalid slums of the Mathary Valley in Kenya, where “rusty, ramshackle structures”called homes are interspersed only with the odd rotting rubbish heap and rivulets of sewage run freely in the streets. A place where starving people and animals compete for air thick with pollution; where young homeless boys – the Parking boys – learn through necessity the art of survival by whatever means available. To eat and find a place warm to sleep when the temperature drops to a bone-seeping chill is their day-to-day aim. To rise above their squalor and have a place they can call “home” is their dream.

Cleverly interweaving a back-story against a backdrop of dire poverty and corrupt politics, M E Oren tells the story of three people: A lost little boy, J’Alex. Sally-Anne, a twenty-three year old undergraduate, who, having previously befriended the boy whilst based in Kenya on a university project, is determined to revisit a country now torn by civil warfare and find him – and Biggy, a product of his own childhood and his struggle to survive in what Biggy himself terms a rubbish dump: Mathary Valley, originally a land-full site where they “dump the waste people”.

Through Mr. Oren’s excellent storytelling and Sally-Anne’s eyes, we see the naivety of a young girl to the grim reality of the Mathary Valley inhabitants’ existence. Through Biggy’s eyes, we see in the political naivety and tribal ignorance of children driven to do what they have to: Simply, to survive.

Fleshed out with other believable, yet richly colourful characters, The Dallas Mercenary is indeed a big book, a valuable learning tool – and a totally engrossing read. I didn’t put the book down until I’d finished it. And when I did, I shed a tear.

Thank you, M E Oren. This book will stay with me. I look forward with eager anticipation to your next book: DUDLHAM SINGS

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Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Goodreads Review ~ A Discerning Woman's Guide to Manhunting.

A Discerning Woman's Guide To ManhuntingA Discerning Woman's Guide To Manhunting by Bel Roberts

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If ever there was a book to fill a gap in the market, A Discerning Woman’s Guide to Manhunting is it. Aimed at a generation of women who are not prepared to be defined by society and fade to grey on reaching fifty…shhh, Bel Roberts has produced a witty, cleverly written little gem. For women who, in particular, have learned to be economically independent and are not prepared to compromise their principles, this book will prove a most-satisfying read. As the title implies, this a story about a mature woman of substance out on a manhunt. And why not? OK, we can’t all be iconic Goddesses, but can you really see Madonna swapping her sex-life for tan tights and slippers anytime soon? Sharon Stone. Michelle Pfeiffer? No, me either.

Written from the point of view of twice-married, now single and childless, Geri, the story takes an honest look at a woman’s attempt to find a “soul” mate, i.e. someone who is an intellectual match, to do something other than slip into her dotage with. Obviously, therefore, the prospects available do come under some scrutiny. I wondered if this might rattle a few men “of a certain age” but then decided a well-balanced man with a good SOH couldn’t fail to be amused at the observations, age being something none of us can hold at bay forever, even with miracle potions/lotions, good diet, etc. That said, I would quite like to see how Bel would tackle a similar book from a male pov. Clifford’s perhaps, the reasonably well-balanced male Geri doesn’t have to compromise her principles for? A man who definitely has a good SOH and is happy to help Geri with her research re the thorny problem off what “physical” attributes one should be looking for in one’s future mate.

The book also – poignantly – looks at that painful period in most people’s lives where the parent becomes the cared for, rather than the caregiver. This, I think, was handled really well, especially the heartrending subject of dementia. As someone who nursed a parent with early-onset Alzheimer’s, I did wonder whether flippancy around the subject might be upsetting. In fact, I ended up smiling, amused sometimes, sometimes with a little bit of sad nostalgia. The balance,though, was just right. The “green curtains” in the day room told me that Bel had put her research, perhaps experience, together to present the issue sensitively, but again, honestly.

In all then, a thoroughly good read. I liked the underlying hint that Geri, being single, should be the one to give up her life to look after her mum. I liked too that Geri, wasn’t prepared to, but was the one to look for a workable compromise, acceptable to all. It became very clear as the story progressed that Geri cared about her mum a great deal. My one and only tiny criticism would be that I would like to have seen Geri reflect on how much she cared a bit earlier on in the book, as she did later.

The scene were the social workers visit made me chuckle out loud (so true to life) and the BMW line was hilarious. Loved it!

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