Wednesday, 24 September 2014


Liz Wilkins runs a book blog called Liz Loves Books and this month she chose to review RICCARTON JUNCTION. Another 4* Review!

‘So in "Riccarton Junction" we meet Kikarin, a teenager recently moved to Scotland, looking to start a new part of her life and indulge herself in her interest in History - but she faces some real issues because of her background and has to deal with a lot of nasty stuff including racism. When her criminal brother turns up she faces a whole new set of problems, here is where the "Thriller" element of the tale kicks in...and I found this to be a highly enjoyable and quite clever read.

Kikarin is intriguing as a character - her interest in dying communities is an odd one but it seems to suit her perfectly and allows one of the many strands of this story to come to life, leading her into a relationship with Chris and into the path of his father. There is an eclectic mix of characters here and the many life themes woven into the narrative are handled well. When her criminal brother arrives at their new home bringing with him a wealth of danger, it is a dark and often disturbing read.

I don't want to give too much away but not all the people you will meet are exactly as they appear, there are some surprising and very clever little twists and turns to keep you on your toes and make you keep turning the pages and overall I thought this was a pretty terrific read.

There were a few subjective issues for me - perhaps some of the many sub plots could have been less or even lost altogether in order to keep the story tight, Kikarin can become annoying at times - yes I get that she is beautiful, which is oft repeated, and I could have done without knowing what she was wearing all the time. Her own attitude to her beauty and the fact that all the men "want" her can grate occasionally as well - but these slight annoyances aside she was a well rounded character and a good main protagonist.

I'm not sure what I'd call this one if pushed - it is certainly a coming of age tale for Kiri, there are some disturbing themes that will give you pause for thought. Definitely a slow burner, the tension slowly building and it is well written and flows nicely. It is one of those books that while it is by no means perfect, it is a very good read and I will be interested to see how this author develops over time.’
Thanks Liz, so glad you liked it.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


Last week The Guardian announced that it was going to interview Haruki Murakami in Edinburgh and if anyone wanted to put a question to him, they would try and get it answered. I think they got about two hundred questions; they are here if anyone is interested. One of them is from me, ‘Have you ever lived down a well ?How long for? How deep was it?’

Bit naive really and in fact in the resume of his answers published yesterday, he doesn’t reply to any question directly, just says, ‘My lifetime dream is to live down a well!’ So there you go. At least he responded, I suppose but it wouldn’t have disturbed his Japanese inscrutability to say, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

I loved Wind-up Bird, which I read at the time. I’ve read it three times, which is unusual for me. It went on to sell 27 million copies but back then there were just a few of us proselytising about it. I read Norwegian Wood after that. Liked it but [Eek!] liked the film better. In fact, I had to watch the film twice.

There is some stuff on CIF about other authors who have written about wells but I haven’t followed it up. I don’t care that much; I am not some kind of fanatical completist that needs to know who or where Murakami got his ideas from. Personally, I think he started with the idea of where the remotest spot on earth might be, decided it was at the bottom of a well in the middle of the Gobi Desert, and worked back from there.

Monday, 1 September 2014


We have spent a lot of time this summer visiting gardens. A few weeks ago we visited Greysgarth near Lancaster, and then yesterday we went to Scampston Hall Gardens, near Bridlington. They were both quite different; Greysgarth has a stream running through it and has been classically designed to incorporate the landscape and its features. It has been divided into ‘rooms’ each with its own character, shrubs in this one, flowers for cutting in that one, a kitchen garden over here. Not sure it is at its best in late August but it is still lovely and full of interest.
Late August is definitely the time to visit Scampston, however. It is almost the opposite of Greysgarth; there are swathes of identical planting, grasses planted in this corner, wildflower meadows over here, conventional shrubs over there, all from the same limited palette so that everything repeats over and over again. The image above expresses it better than any words.


Lucy is the number one Box Office film in the world at the moment; this summer’s blockbuster. The mesmerising Scarlett Johansson holds it all together; she is on screen for more or less the entire 80 minutes running time. You have to wonder what she said when she was given the pitch: ‘Okay, so I’m the only woman in it?’ Uhmm, yes. ‘No black or brown faces anywhere?’ Uhmm, yes. ‘Who is the romantic lead?’ There is no romance. ‘Not even as a sub-plot?’ Uhmm, no. Sorry. ‘And I’m in every single scene?’ Uhmm, yes. ‘The bad guys. They’re all stereotypical slanty-eyed Asians covered in body tattoos?’ Uhmm, yes. ‘Car chases?’ Uhmm, yes. ‘Guns?’ Uhmm, yes. ‘Mysoginy?’ Uhmm, yes, ’fraid so.
‘And am I right in thinking that you haven’t had a hit film for twenty years, Mr Besson?’
But the girl, she say yes and not only manages to stay afloat in all the mayhem and silliness, but maintains all her poise and detachment. You constantly have the sense that Scarlett is reaching for something of quality while her director is trying for the lowest common denominator. They meet somewhere in the middle. Five star performance meets two star plotting results in [I think], three-star execution. Infuriating, really.