Thursday, 12 November 2020

Cat Step - an #IndieBookNetwork review


Cat Step by Alison Irvine (Dead Ink Books)

Expanding my reading horizons has always been important to me, whether it is new genres, locations, languages in translation, or new publishers. The IndieBookNetwork initiative is really helping me do the latter as without that I'm not sure I'd ever have come across Cat Step.

The publisher blurb reads:

One mistake can unravel everything…

She only left her daughter in the car for a minute; just a quick minute whilst she ran into the shop. She barely thought twice about making the decision, but it soon began to consume her every thought. And not just her thoughts, but those of every neighbour, police officer and social security worker in a fifteen mile radius. But this is her child. Surely she knows best?

After she’d made the move to a small town in Scotland, the rolling hills and blustery beaches seemed to be the perfect backdrop for her and her four year-old daughter, Emily, to start again. It wasn’t always easy just the two of them, but Liz was sure that she could manage this time. And now this?

Sometimes, one mistake is all it takes to unravel everything. Cat Step is a lyrically sparse novel about judgement, intergenerational relationships, community, class, and the expectations that we place on mothers. With sharp prose Alison Irvine has crafted a compassionate narrative that compels you to read on.

And that is a pretty good precis of the book, but what it leaves out is the feeling of overwhelming dread that the book gave me from the first page.

From the start I couldn't tell which way the book was going to go, there are so many strands that add to the feeling of dread, but in general terms they were all 'real' and on the surface 'nice' so why was I so nervous?

I'm not going to spoil anyone's reading of the book except to say all of the threads are drawn together well, and that at no point did the story tip over into the unbelievable. It really did feel as if this could happen to anyone in the same circumstances. Once one action is taken, or one mistake is made then life can just snowball. Individually they are nothing but like that snowball they just keep getting bigger until you are somthered.

The chapters were nice and short for the most part, so when I really couldn't bear the tension any more it was easy to stop, breathe and then come back to the book. 

I don't think I'd have found this book without the chance from Bex, especially with the new lockdown (and how little I am going into shops this year anyhow) but I am glad that I did, I don't think that it will ultimately make my best of the year lists but it certainly had a really powerful effect on me.

Cat Step was published by Dead Ink Books on 5th November and I was provided with a free copy to review as part of the Indie Book Network.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

The Becket List Blog Tour (#IndieBookNetwork)


The Becket List by Henry Becket (RedDoor Press)

Let's face it 2020 has been a pretty miserable year and anything that can raise a smile has to be a good thing, and for me The Becket List has really been a tonic over the past few weeks.

When I was offered the chance by Bex at Ninjabookbox to take part in another #IndieBookNetwork project - and one that was going to be based around a humour book - I was very excited, any thing that chases off the onset of the winter blues is to be embraced.

The Becket List seemed to be just what the (book)doctor ordered:

The Becket List is a not entirely serious compendium of 'First World Problems' - the sort of stuff that drives us round the bend on a daily basis. How is it that atonal music, bus stations, cling-film and coat-hangers can bugger us up so comprehensively? Or passport control people, modern poetry, or just about anything you'll find in a typical hotel bedroom? Embracing both the inanimate - from allen keys to rawlplugs - and the animated (well, in some cases) - from your fellow-travellers to every third-rate waiter who ever walked the earth - this book is essential for your sanity. As such, this comprehensive A to Z provides a signal service to humanity.

The list is arranged alphabetically and I've been reading it one (or two) letters a day during my coffee break and it has made me laugh out loud more than one. I think Mr Norfolkbookworm has got a little fed up with me reading extracts to him as he's trying to do the crossword.

With any personal list there's entries that made me nod in agreement with Henry Becket's thoughts and then there of course there were some entries that I thought were a little harsh, even then his reasoning often brought me round to his point of view! 

I think that my two top entries were the ones on cats and the weather forecasts - both were spot on with my feelings and it was nice to see that others share my opinions on the latter! A little of me would have liked to have heard his opinion on bucket lists but that is a minor quibble.

The book is illustrated by Tony Husband, but the book isn't reliant on them which makes the joy of coming across them all the funnier - the illustration below is actually about teapots and not vicars but it captures my experience with every teapot I've ever used...

This book should bring delight to anyone who comes across it - however grumpy or not they are in general!

Huge thanks to Bex at Ninjabookbox for offering the chance to take part in the blog tour, RedDoor Press & Helen at Literallypr for the copy of the book and then of course to Henry Beckett and Tony Husband for writing a book that has raised a smile in the gloom of autumn 2020.