Book Review: ‘Satin Island’ by Tom McCarthy

As an avid, lifelong reader I pretty much always have to finish a book when I’ve started it. Love it or loathe it, I really have to get to the end, even if it feels like I might die of boredom in the process. I consider it a bit of a super power to have the good sense to just give up on a book that you’re clearly not enjoying. But sadly, it’s one of many super powers that I simply don’t have and it’s a real rarity if I put a book down in order to give up on it. Hence the slog to get through what was actually a relatively short book.

Satin Island is by no means a terrible book. In fact, it was shortlisted for the 2015 Booker Prize and so, if you believe in awards, then that’s a decent yardstick of the quality here. Satin Island just wasn’t for me.

The story revolves around anthropologist U (or was it C or K, I genuinely don’t remember. Whatever it is, he hasn’t got a proper name) and the quest that he seems to have found himself on. He’s employed by a company to research stuff…this, that and maybe the other…I was never really entirely sure what he was doing to be fair and the crux of the tale seems to be the findings of his investigation.

The problem – both with the narrative and for me, the book itself – is that U doesn’t seem to ever really do anything that resembles work or the work that we’re led to believe that he should be doing. He’s researching stuff, but it never really seems to have anything to do with what it is he’s actually meant to be working on. Mind you, even the project here is vague. So, while you’re reading about what U’s up to, you’re also wondering why on earth he’s doing it. And for me this meant that the narrative never really took shape and I realised about halfway through the book that I had no idea what was going on.

U investigates the death of parachutists. U starts seeing a girl. U Googles stuff about Staten Island. U reads up on South Pacific cults. U spends lots of time looking into lots of different things producing very little in the way of results. In essence, U spends his days doing the equivalent of you or I disappearing down various YouTube or Facebook holes and while he gets paid to do it, this really added nothing at all to the book. In fact, with each little bit of research or thinking that U did, I would get optimistic that finally we were getting somewhere, only for U to find he’d headed down another dead end and me to find I still didn’t know what was going on.

For me, Satin Island is one to put down to experience. I don’t feel that I can give it a bad review though. Rather, I feel like the book was possibly just a little bit cleverer than me. So yes, nothing seems to have happened, but maybe there’s a hidden meaning and I’m just missing the point. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve missed something in a book or a film. Whatever, it was though, I finished it!

Now, in terms of recommendations…well I’ll leave it to you. By all means read it and feel free to let me know what I was missing.

I give Satin Island,

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Book Review: Big Game by Dan Smith

How do we measure manliness? What is it that we do that tells the world, ‘yep, he’s a man now’? Different cultures would give different replies and different definitions. Some would say it comes with a certain age, others a certain responsibility. For 13-year-old Oskari, it’s about something very different indeed.

Oskari lives in a rural hunting community in Finland where tradition is king. And today, tradition dictates that in order to be declared a man, he must venture out into the forest and kill a wild animal. When he returns back to the ominously named Place of Skulls with his quarry, then he will be a man. What a way to celebrate your 13th birthday!

From the very start of this novel you get the feeling that this manhood business could be a bit of an uphill struggle for Oskari. He seems like a nice kid (which in itself could be viewed as a bit of a barrier to becoming a man) but the more we read, the more we discover that the odds here are thoroughly stacked against him.

Firstly, Oskari’s dad is pretty much the village hero, having killed a bear when it was his turn to enter manhood. I mean, a bear! How do you follow that? As a man who jumped firmly skyward when a tiny mouse ran over his foot a couple of weeks ago, I think I’d be taking a net and looking for the odd stickleback or butterfly and just accepting that the village didn’t really see me as much of a man! But Oskari – who early on declares himself the best hunter in the village – is determined to live up to his dad’s legacy.

However, when we join him on an ultimately fruitless solo hunt at the start of the novel, it becomes clear that he’s going to struggle. With a deer in his sights and conditions almost perfect, his shooting is so weak that the arrow simply bounces off its prey. Later, he is sniggered at by the other boys at the start of the hunt and then, when he receives the ceremonial bow, he finds that it’s so big that he can’t even fire it properly. Maybe this manhood thing is going to take a little while longer.

Tradition is tradition though and Oskari and his father are determined that he’ll have his day. So, after a faltering start and with little confidence left, he heads out for a night in the forest.

‘Big Game’ tells the tale of Oskari’s night in the forest and his quest to be viewed as a man by his peers and the elders of the village. Starting off at the tradtional meeting place, The Place of Skulls, Oskari ventures off into the trees determined to prove himself. However, he could never have predicted what lies ahead.

Oskaris’ coming of age is dramatic to say the least. And while it’s certainly far-fetched, the story makes for an exciting read as he stumbles over a manhunt and then battles to bring something home that will not only prove that he’s a man, but arguably save the Western world in a quite remarkable twist.

However remarkable and maybe even a bit silly the action is, Dan Smith has written an excellent book. After all, if we can’t drift away into something or somewhere beyond imagination with books and films, then what’s the point? So it would be churlish to quibble about the details here. Better to simply suspend your disbelief, pick up the book and read on.

The action here is fast and fairly extreme as Oskari is charged with not only proving that he’s a man, but saving his rather unusual hunting trophy from the grasp of a group of highly trained, professional killers. But Oskari has the local advantage. This is his territory, his hunting ground, he has decades worth of historical knowledge; better still though, this is his day! Nothing is going to be allowed to get in the way of Oskari becoming a man!

‘Big Game’ is a book that is full of action and packed with twists. Whether you’re of the age that it’s aimed for – tweens and teens – or a fully fledged, should-know-better-than-to-read-this-kind-of-thing adult (which in some people’s opinions I will be) this is a real page turner and in fact, more than anything, it’s just good fun.

I would absolutely recommend ‘Big Game’ to you. Yes, it’s pretty improbable. Yes, some of the characters are almost cartoonish and yes, there’s very little chance of anything like this ever actually happening. But it’s undoubtedly well written, well researched and in Oskari, has the kind of character that you can’t fail to root for!

I give ‘Big Game’

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A tour round a brewery, lovely free beer and cracking company. What’s not to like?

There have been a fair few downsides to turning 50. Not least the idea of being 50. Seeing the number 50 on so many birthday cards was also pretty unpleasant. And people’s enthusiasm for pointing my age out has been not only kind of weird, but really annoying too. But, there’s nothing I can do about it, apart from adopt a showbiz age and I’m afraid I’m far too male and northern to start doing things like that.

With downsides often come upsides though. There’s been a veritable outpouring of love and affection from family and friends and even as someone who doesn’t like a fuss, it’s been wonderful to be on the receiving end of.

My wonderful wife has ensured that the celebration of turning 50 can be stretched out by buying me gifts that keep on giving. In short, as well as lots of other presents, she got me tickets for lots of gigs, plays and experiences, meaning that for once I have an extraordinary social life and will be kept busy for most of the year!

The first of my experiences came on Saturday gone as my wife had booked me and a friend on a tour of the Brinkburn Street Brewery in Byker, Newcastle. To say that I was excited would be an enormous understatement. So, let me tell you all about it.

My day started off at 10.15am on the Quayside in Newcastle, meeting my friend David. We were booked on the tour at 11am and thought, as we didn’t exactly know where the brewery was, we’d give ourselves plenty of time to get there and find it! Predictably though, we found it really easily, leaving ourselves 20 minutes to sit by the river in the winter sunshine; a brilliant start to any winter day.

Having walked straight into the wrong room at Brinkburn Street, we were shown downstairs to the bar and kitchen, where our tour would begin and end. Owner Lee was quick to head over for a chat and put us at our ease with a warm welcome to his brewery, involving telling us the first of many stories that he’d keep us busy with for our time at Brinkburn Street! A fantastic host! We were also joined by two other fellow Geordies who would be taking the tour and thankfully, we got along famously as like us, they were Newcastle fans.

Soon, we headed through to the brewery where one of the brewers talked us through the process of how our pint goes from being just oats and water to a wonderful glass of the stuff we love. He also made me feel incredibly old given that he looked to have discovered the elixir of youth someone between the hops and the water! Imagine my envy at one so young – just finished a Master degree, so mid-twenties at the most – being lucky enough to have this job!

As someone who really hadn’t the first idea of how to brew beer, I was fascinated by the process and the dedication that goes into making something I love so much. Every angle was covered and all questions were answered in real detail. And boy, when you’re nursing a thirst and waiting to go through to the bar and sample some beers, even a couple of questions can feel like a hell of lot!

We were treated like kings in the bar. This wasn’t just a list of beers that you had to try; we were given a choice of something like 12 beers and encouraged to vary our choices all afternoon. Our tour and tasting session was due to end at 1pm, but we were still being asked what we’d like at 2pm! It’s safe to say that we had a fantastic time!

The bar itself is a really eclectically decorated place. There are prints and posters everywhere you look that nod to all manner of music and film as well as plenty of local heroes, many of the black and white (footballing) variety, so there’s loads for you to see. I think – I forgot to enquire – that there are local prints available to but as well. You can also buy Brinkburn T-shirts too. Even the glasses were stylish and I kept meaning to ask if I could buy some, but ultimately the beer and the chat meant that this was another thing I forgot. Definitely next time though!

The furniture and decor veers between modern and bohemian and it really is a fantastic setting for an afternoon or evening relaxing with friends or family. If other exciting plans hadn’t have been on the horizon, I think we’d have stayed there a lot longer.

Brinkburn Street is a creative and imaginative brewery that seems very much forward thinking in its approach. Lee and his team are clearly passionate about what they do and it showed in the beers that we tasted. Depending on the beer we chose, we’d get either a third or a half pint, which obviously encourages you to take your time and consider your choices. My choices were as follows,

  1. Cushty, Cushy – an IPA session beer
  2. Byker Brown – a hoppy brown ale
  3. Wrong Side of The Pennines – an American IPA
  4. Ford Street – an American IPA
  5. Afternoon Tea – a spiced, herbed beer infused with Earl Grey tea
  6. Helter Skelter – a double hopped IPA

I remarked a few times on the fact that I hadn’t had a bad beer all day. This was the drink talking in every sense of the phrase. Firstly because every sample was delicious and different, but also because having had a decent amount to drink I was at that stage where you just keep repeating yourself for something to say! But it was wholly true too. And the other three members of our touring party said much the same. We all remarked on the fact that a lot of breweries brew beer that as ultimately pretty much the same thing, so that once you get beyond the interesting label and the alcohol strength, it’s just bland. But not Brinkburn Street. We found that each beer had something decidedly different about it, be it in the taste or the finish and as a result, it made for a cracking couple of hours of just sitting round, sampling wonderfully drinkable beers and putting the world to rights! Strikes me that’s what middle age was made for!

I’m not usually a brown ale drinker, simply because it’s not very tasty (and I know that might seem sacrilegious coming from someone from the home of Newcastle Brown Ale), but when one of our party recommended the Byker Brown, we all had one and it was an absolute revelation! I also loved the Helter Skelter, which at 9.2% was a bit of a scary prospect and although the strength was evident, it certainly didn’t take away from the fact that it was just really tasty! My favourite was the Wrong Side of The Pennines, which was just a tasty and very drinkable American IPA.

Just as good as the beer was the atmosphere. We were made to feel really welcome, with owner Lee occasionally popping over for a chat and serving us our beer too. The brewer that had initially shown us round – please forgive me for forgetting his name – also popped back on several occasions to tell us about what we were drinking and just check on how we were doing, making it a genuinely positive experience.

Brinkburn Street also do food, but as we were on a tight schedule we were unable to partake, but the choice looked great and some of the aromas were just lovely!

At the end of our time at Brinkburn, we stepped out – a little unsteadily, it has to be said – into the sunny afternoon air having both enjoyed ourselves immensely. As the headline suggests, a tour of the place, great beer and great company – you couldn’t fail to have the time of your life! I would highly recommend a visit to Brinkburn Street if you’re in Newcastle or if you’re planning a visit. Take a short walk along the Tyne towards the Ouseburn where a warm welcome and a cracking selection of beers awaits!

Huge thanks to Lee and his team, who as I’ve mentioned, were perfect hosts. We’ll definitely be back! Apologies, dear readers, for the lack of photos. I meant to take loads, but somehow got sidetracked by the fabulous beer…

Book Review: ‘Marriage Material’ by Sathnam Sanghera

Every now and again, a newspaper or a magazine that I read will publish a list of some kind of essential reads. It might be an end of year poll or just something that links to a particular time of year, but for as long as I can remember I’ve cut these lists up and stashed the cuttings elsewhere as books that I will mean to get around to buying and reading. ‘Marriage Material’ was published in 2013 and was found on such a list and then, years later, recovered from whatever receptacle it had been stashed in. I finally got round to buying it last year! And I have to say, it’s the kind of book that makes me thankful for my hoarding!

‘Marriage Material’ is a novel that is predominantly about families. From the love and the tenderness through to the irritations, the regrets and the great big falling outs. But it’s about much more than that too. Set largely in the West Midlands from the 1970s and 80s right through to the present day, the novel has culture, prejudice and division at its heart and for those of us who grew up in these times – if not the precise location – it makes for a really interesting read as well as one that brings back times that were a lot darker in their attitudes to anything or anyone that was deemed ‘different’.

The book tells the tale of Arjan Banga and his family with the story being told via a dual narrative taking place some years apart, before the two sides come together in an interesting twist. I loved the narrative style here as it left me not only trying to follow the story but also trying to work out the connection between the two. I think I was a little slow on the uptake, if I’m being honest, as it wasn’t actually that hard to work out, but for the first third of the book I must confess that I didn’t make the connection!

The family are immigrants to UK, so as the story is set in the 1970s and 80s, the book covers the ugly racism prevalent in our country at this time. However, I’d say that Sanghera treats these issues with a light touch and is prepared to write with humour when tackling some of the notable instances of prejudice in the book, such as the geographical inaccuracy of most of the insults hurled his and his familys’ way. It certainly puts the ignorance of his abusers into perspective and Sanghera’s observations made me smile on more than one occasion.

As the two narratives collide the story picks up pace. When his father dies Arjan heads home and immediately feels family pressure to take over the business. But he desperately doesn’t want to slip into the kind of stereotyped life he’s worked so hard all his adult life to avoid. However, seeing his mother again leads to him worrying about her health as well as her ability to run things and he’s is forced into a couple of decisions that will have a huge impact upon his future. One of these decisions is to track down a long lost relative and her impact on all of their lives has mixed, but ultimately positive results.

Rather than returning to his far more cosmopolitan life in London, he opts to stay at home to help run the business, as well as looking after his elderly mother. However, with a fiancé patiently awaiting him back in London and old acquaintances vying for his time in the Midlands, his life just gets more and more complicated. Inevitably, Arjan messes things up!

Marriage Material is a great read. Arjan’s life veers from one catastrophe to the next and as a reader you can’t help feeling sympathy, even when it seems abundantly clear that he must know he’s making a terrible decision. There’s a real humour – often quite dark – to the book and though at times it seems seems like Arjan’s life is spiraling out of control, you can somehow still laugh at his predicament.

In the end it all works out for the family. But not without the kind of scene that wouldn’t look out of place in a Tarantino film near the end. But just when you think it might all end in the kind of tragedy that none of us saw coming, there’s a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. A happy ending of sorts and certainly not in the way that you might have predicted when you first picked up the book!

A funny, engaging and just all-round excellent read, I’ll give Marriage Material

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Film Review: Good Boys

Sixth Grade is a tough time for any kid. Hormones are starting to fly around, you’re finding your way in life a little more and seeking independence from your parents, while at the same time still seeking solace under their protective ‘wings’. And all the while, you’re forming friendships that are likely to last at least up until adulthood, if not for the rest of your life. Sixth grade might just be the making of a person.

Such is the situation for Max, Lucas and Thor (The self titled Bean Bag Boys and the heroes of Good Boys), three 6th grade friends living in a smart suburb of an unnamed American city as they prepare for their first ‘kissing party’. Sadly though, their preparation doesn’t go smoothly, leading to a series of misadventures that although often bordering on the ridiculous, are highly entertaining.

‘Good Boys’ is a coming of age adventure with a healthy slice of slapstick thrown in for good measure. Having been invited to their first ever ‘kissing party’ by the school cool kid, Soren, the boys set out to do some research. After all, if you’re heading for a kissing party, you’d better know just how to kiss, right? And Max is smitten with classmate Brixlee and desperate to grab a smooch with her.

So, in the name of research and with no thought whatsoever for privacy, the boys borrow an expensive drone from Max’s dad and set out to film a neighbour kissing her boyfriend. So far, so good…nothing to see here! Surely, nothing can go wrong? But the Bean Bag Boys’ drone experiment in fact goes badly – and oh so predictably – wrong and as a result they inadvertently make enemies of their neighbour Hannah (she of the kissing with the boyfriend) and her friend, Lily. Even though the boys eventually get to their kissing party, they are forced to learn some harsh lessons from their mistakes in the days afterwards. This is often to hilarious effect and although at times the humour is near the knuckle and perhaps a bit silly, I found myself laughing along all the way through.

Writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, known for their work on The Office, deserve great credit for the words that they put in the mouths of babes here, as it’s often brilliantly incongruous and hilariously – and deliberately – inaccurate. Seth Rogen, one of the producers of the film, has clearly had a chunk of input here too. The boys’ take on various aspects of sex and drugs is a hilarious mix of total myth, complete rubbish and dangerous stereotypes which is guaranteed to raise more than the odd chuckle.

In their quest to replace the expensive drone – which is inevitably destroyed – and avoid their now mortal enemies, Hannah and Lily, the Bean Bag Boys find themselves thrust into several dangerous adventures that are navigated with typical pre-teen innocence so that they can reach an out of town mall. But it’s not just these trials and tribulations that make up the coming of age story and as a result of the kissing party the boys learn some things about friendship and each other that they would have never suspected in their previous lives sitting in their ban bag den playing games.

Good Boys is a great, feel-good film. The comedy here is sharp, the characters well written and if at times the twists and turns of the narrative are nothing short of ridiculously unbelievable, it doesn’t matter. Good Boys is one of those films where you’ll need to suspend your sense of reality and just enjoy the action, however daft it might get. Ultimately you’ll want the boys to get the drone, stay friends and keep the feel-good factor…but once all of their escapades are over, will there be a happy ending for Max, Lucas and Thor?

I’d give Good Boys

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book Review: Anti Social by Nick Pettigrew

I thought I knew what an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer was before I read this book. I had them pegged as being akin to a Community Support Officer in the police and so I imagined this would be the book version of shows like ‘999 What’s Your Emergency?’ The odd fight, neighbours who play their music too loud and a lot of time wasters. And then I read the book.

Nick Pettigrew fell into a career as an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer in the way that many of us have fallen into a career. He came out of university with the kind of degree that doesn’t have an obvious next step (bloody English!) and before he knew it, was taking a job that he didn’t know a great deal about. Lots of us have done it. I did it. Over two decades after leaving university I’m still in a job that I once told my wife I’d “probably give a couple of years”. Fortunately, I love what I do, so although I can’t help but wonder what might have been if I’d have had an actual plan, there are no regrets. But then, my job doesn’t involve regularly dealing with problems ranging from noise nuisance to crack addicts.

‘Anti-Social’ is Pettigrew’s memoir of his time in what sounds like a tremendously testing and frequently unrewarding job as an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer in a local authority in London. A job he fell into and then gave his all to for over a decade before finding that he could no longer cope with the conditions in which he worked every day. And these weren’t what some of us might call ‘testing’ conditions, like having to sit on an uncomfortable chair or huffing and puffing about the fact that the stationary order was taking a bit long in arriving. No, Pettigrew worked with and represented some of the most vulnerable members of society in one of the busiest cities in the world.

So while some days were dominated by what Pettigrew might call routine investigations, inspecting flats and collecting evidence of noise nuisance, many others were spent trying to help the neighbours of drug dealers or battling to save the tenancies of incredibly vulnerable people with appalling mental health problems. Put simply, Pettigrew often gave every ounce of his energy and time helping those that wouldn’t admit they needed help or those who simply couldn’t help themselves. In fact, his diary tells us that his working days were often spent in vain, trying to help people who were a dangerous combination of both.

‘Anti-Social’ is a book that should shock you. In fact, if you think you have problems with every day life, then this book might just provide the antidote. While I probably spend too long moaning about life’s smaller problems, some of the cases that Pettigrew documents here left me in tears. Some of the powerlessness and some of the blatant exploitation of society’s most vulnerable is truly haunting. And all the while Pettigrew struggled with his own mental health, as documented at the start of every monthly chapter when he indicates to the reader his own current medication, accompanied by his newly changed and usually deeply ironic password.

The book is brilliantly written. Obviously the real life nature of it lends itself beautifully to an ever more engaging narrative, but what makes ‘Anti-Social’ stand out is its dark sense of humour. Often, the same tale is likely to have you tearing your hair out and close to tears while at the same time laughing at the way it’s told. There’s a certain dark irony in a lot of the problems that are discussed that makes the book both addictive and alarming in equal measure. And while ‘Anti-Social’ will introduce you to a dark side of society that you were perhaps unaware of, it will also expose human stupidity at its most hilarious with a deadpan tone that will help you to smile or laugh your way through the horror that is often unfolding on its pages.

If you enjoyed ‘This is Going to Hurt’ by Adam Kay then ‘Anti-Social’ is a logical next step. Similarly funny, maddeningly frustrating, but also fantastically engaging. The kind of book where what you’re being told makes you want to put it down, yet not put it down at all.

In what some all too often refer to as dark, desperate times, ‘Anti-Social’ should be a wake-up call to all of us. Yes, a series of lockdowns caused by a ham-fisted reaction to a global pandemic has made the last year or so undoubtedly tough. But if you’ve still got a job, can get out for a walk every so often, can afford to just sit and watch television for any length of time or you just still have your health in some semblance of working order, then you probably don’t know you’re born. Reading ‘Anti-Social’ might just help you stop feeling so sorry for yourself. Thank Christ for people like Pettigrew!

I’d give ‘Anti-Social’ by Nick Pettigrew

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Book Review – The Boy on The Shed by Paul Ferris

Paul Ferris was a young man who had it all. The looks, the intelligence, the talent and the style. Okay, maybe not the style, given that this was the early 1980s where style was confined to the drawer marked ‘Things that the 80s forgot’. None of us had style in the 80s. Put the phrase ’80s style’ into Google Images if you don’t believe me. The results are like those in a ‘Who can mix the worst colours in one outfit’ competition.

But back to Paul Ferris. His autobiography tells the tale of a lad who had it all, only to lose it cruelly on more than one occasion. And while this sounds like quite the heart-breaking read, it actually makes for a brilliantly original book and one that I’d wholly recommend people pick up.

Ferris should have been someone who scaled the same footballing heights as his one time team mate, Paul Gascoigne, a player often described as the most naturally gifted footballer that these islands have ever produced. Such was his talent – and his country of birth, being Northern Ireland – that comparisons were also quickly drawn with the legend that is George Best. He was gifted, dedicated and eager to learn, and so when he was scouted by and eventually signed for Newcastle United, his future looked bright.

Paul’s story was never going to be simple though. Brought up amongst sectarian violence in the city of Lisburn south of Belfast, there seems to have always been an edge to his childhood. Add to that his worries about his sick mother and you’ve already got an engaging story. But, surrounded by love and encouragement, Paul flourished. His natural talent with a ball at his feet soon became clear and suddenly he was faced with a choice – stay at home and pursue his education or risk everything, including the love of his life, and move to England to follow a dream and escape the troubles of his home town.

‘The Boy on The Shed’ is simply brilliant. Undoubtedly a book for football fans, but at the same time the kind of tale that anyone will enjoy. This is so much more than just a sporting autobiography. Ferris seems to have the world at his feet and yet every time he looks like making a big breakthrough – and not only in football – a cruel twist of fate appears to slap him round the chops. Undaunted, he keeps on getting up and fighting on, even when the setbacks seem like they’ll leave him with little or no fight left.

Ultimately, ‘The Boy on The Shed’ is the classic underdog story. And it won’t spoil your enjoyment to hear that there’s a happy ending. But along the way Ferris’s life seems to be blighted by pitfalls, tragedy and simple bad luck. Just when you think he’s going to catch a break another setback appears and he’s back, unfortunately, to whatever you call the bit that comes before square one! In a tale and a career that takes in professional sport, medicine, law and even writing novels, all you want for Ferris as a reader, is to be happy. And at times it seems like he never will be. Delightfully though, he makes it in the end.

‘The Boy on The Shed’ is a joy to read. Brilliantly written with intelligence and good humour and crammed full of the kinds of stories you’d expect from a life spent in and around professional football, it’s a must read. Whether you’re a sports fan or not I’d urge you to pick up this book. It’s the kind of story that has you rooting for the protagonist – and in this case it’s a real life that we’re reading about. Paul Ferris may not be a name that you’ve ever heard of, but he’ll become a person that you end up caring about. A likeable underdog who gets there in the end.

I loved ‘The Boy on The Shed’ so I’m giving it nothing short of…

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Feel free to leave a comment – I’d love to hear what you made of the book if you get around to picking it up.

Film Review: Overlord

OVERLORD | British Board of Film Classification

If you’ve ever wondered what the world would have looked like if Germany had triumphed in World War II, you may well have come up with some or all of the following answers.

  • Lots and lots of blonde, blue eyed people, like an incredibly efficient version of Baywatch. (Ironically, given his dark hair, David Hasselhoff would still have had a place because of the affection that he’s held in in Germany. He did, after all, single-handedly bring down the Berlin Wall).
  • Trains that ran on time. All of the time.
  • The obligatory picture of the family in ledherhosen on every mantelpiece.
  • Lots and lots of mullets.
  • Everybody can take a penalty, whatever the pressure. (This is a football gag…soccer, if you’re not familiar with what football actually is).
  • Of course I jest. The world wouldn’t look anything like this generalised tuetonic view…

What you probably wouldn’t have imagined though, would have been any supercharged zombies. But then, you probably haven’t watched ‘Overlord’.

Directed by Julius Avery and starring Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell and Mathilde Olivier, Overlord tells the tale of an American army units’ seemingly doomed mission to take out a vital communications tower prior to the D Day landings. We find our heroes in a plane, heading for Northern France and a remote village where the Nazis have set up some kind of communications hub in an old church. As you do. If the allied troops are to succeed on the beaches of Normandy this tower needs to be taken out. If it’s not, then the Nazis will be able to intercept allied radio communication and will inevitably be slaughtered. Over to you, American heroes.

However, when their plane comes under heavy artillery fire and ends up in flames you realise that this is going to be in no way a straightforward tale of big ol’ Uncle Sam saving the day. A bit like WWII, really. But, some of our parachuting heroes survive – I mean, it’d have been a short film otherwise – and head towards the target village in order to complete their mission. Game on!

If you, rightly, thought that Hitler’s plans for the Aryan race were unpalatable, then you’d be truly horrified by what our heroes find in the village and subsequently the church.

Overlord marries a dystopian vision with some of the most warped elements of horror to give us a quite absurd, yet compelling twist on the classic war film. You’ll find tons of clichés, heroes, villains, a little bit of glamour in the form of French villager Chloe played by Mathilde Olivier, but you’ll also find jump scares aplenty and a horrifically warped version of what the Reich were cooking up – literally – via their crazed scientists. Is it believable? Well, no. Is it watchable? Hell, yes!

Overlord is no emotional roller coaster. There are no life-changing performances here. However, it’s sure to keep you gripped and brighten up a dull day with its sometimes utterly fantastical plot.

If you’re not too bothered about realism, if you enjoy a bit of gore and if you fancy a war film with a twist, then Overlord is very definitely worth a couple of hours of your time.

I give Overlord

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