Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Skipper's Child By Valerie Poore


                     Silver Award in the Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards 2013:

 Arie Kornet hates school holidays on his family's barge, the Rival, which is home to Arie, his two sisters, his father, and his deaf mother. But because his father is a commercial skipper, all they do is travel from one place to another on the Dutch and other European canals and waterways - the binnenvaart. Arie is intensely frustrated with it all. It seems there is nothing for him to do, and no escape. That is, until an unexpected brush with Russian secret agents, international plots, and a startling stow-away bring him far more excitement than his dreams had ever bargained for! Suddenly his own life, and those of his entire beloved family, could be in danger. Arie has difficult choices to make, and even more difficult actions to take.

When I read a book written by Valerie Poore it's usually a travel memoir but Val has plenty of strings to her bow and as well as her four travel memoirs, her fiction book, How to Breed Sheep and Goats she has also written this book for young adults although I would say that The Skipper's Child is a book for all ages. I read it without thinking it was for anyone younger and I also think a child from about seven upwards would enjoy reading it or it being read to them in instalments. The cover is beautiful but I feel it looks like it's aimed at younger children and as I said it's easily read and enjoyed by all ages.

 The year is 1962 and the Cold War is raging between America and Russia. Carrying goods back and forward on a barge is not an easy life. It's a life that the young teenager Arie doesn't want for himself, he wants to live on dry land and visit museums and galleries and see the world. Arie is home from boarding school for the Christmas holidays and his father is happy to have his help taking a consignment of wool from Rotterdam to France. This may sound easy enough but with the waterways very busy and snow falling and ice in the water it makes for a long laborious journey.

One day Arie finds a stowaway, a young Russian boy called Dmitri. The family including Arie's mother and two sisters becoming involved in trying to save this boy from the powers that be but it is very dangerous and can they really outwit the KGB?

I enjoyed this book so much. As well as the exciting storyline it's a book about love, about children seeing their parents in a whole new light and about having the courage to do what is right.
Arie's father, Hendrik is a very honourable man who likes to do things by the book but sometimes people force your hand and he shows himself then to be a formidable adversary.

This book is beautifully written and it could only have been done by someone who loves barging, someone who doesn't mind the hard work and cold mornings this kind of life throws at you. Valerie Poore lives on such a barge and the idea for the book is based on her partner Koos's life on a barge as a child, although the story is fiction. Val explains it on her blog  Who is the Skipper's Child?

The descriptions of Arie and his sisters moving the snow from the barge and trying to move the ice in the water so they could sail were so vivid they made me shiver with cold. 
I loved the relationship between the members of the family. My heart wept for Arie's mother who nurses a heartache that only her husband can see. His two sisters, Anneke and Jannie were a delight, just typical sisters.
I was so glad there was an epilogue at the end of this book as it ended it off nicely. I could see this story being made into a TV drama either as a film or serialised and I'm sure Valerie Poore could come up with more stories about the Kornet family.

The fiction books I like to read most are the ones that leave me with some knowledge of something new. Having read Valerie Poore's books on her life on the dutch waterways in a barge I new a little of the life. I didn't know what it was like to grow up on a working barge where family life and work involves everyone. It must have been a hard life, an interesting life and sometimes, I imagine, a boring life for a child, and Arie taught me that. 

The Skipper's Child is reduced for kindle right now for a few days. At 99p it's a great download for any young people who have been lucky enough to receive a kindle for Christmas and also for any adult wanting a good read with no drugs, sex or bad lanuague. 
On Amazon.co.uk for kindle or paperback                   Amazon.com

Valerie's other books can be found  here

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Follow Me by Angela Clarke

The ‘Hashtag Murderer’ posts chilling cryptic clues online, pointing to their next target. Taunting the police. Enthralling the press. Capturing the public’s imagination.
But this is no virtual threat.
As the number of his followers rises, so does the body count.
Eight years ago two young girls did something unforgivable. Now ambitious police officer Nasreen and investigative journalist Freddie are thrown together again in a desperate struggle to catch this cunning, fame-crazed killer. But can they stay one step ahead of him? And can they escape their own past?
Time's running out. Everyone is following the #Murderer. But what if he is following you?

Freddie is struggling as a journalist. She has written article for an online newspaper but as yet nothing in print. The editor has told her she needs to find a big story, put herself out there and write about it,then it will be in print.

Freddie is working part time in a cafe to make ends meet and even at that ends are not meeting.
 One night she sees an old schoolfriend Nas who she had a falling out with years ago. She follows her and finds out she is a policewoman on her way to the scene of a murder. Freddie becomes involved as she puts on white overalls and pretends to be part of the investigation team. She has her story.

I will start with saying that I enjoyed this book and found it to be a page turner. There was quite a hype on Twitter about this book before it was published and I thought it might keep me awake at night but I'm glad to say it didn't.

The writer asks us to believe that Joe Bloggs or Freddie in this story can just walk off the street and into a crime scene just because she has white overalls on and that her ex friend Nas would cover for her even although she is ambitious and trying to make sergeant.
We also have to believe that no one on the police payroll can understand the workings of Twitter and social media and the inspector allows Freddie to instruct the murder investigation team on what the murderer is up to on Twitter. 
Freddie and Nas have a big secret from their schooldays which is why they stopped being friends. 
I liked Nas better as a character. She is focused in her job and wants to get on in life. 
Freddie is a mess and annoying with it. Her language is awful and I don't think it adds anything to the story at all. I felt it hard to empathize with her although I tried.

The kindle download is 99p and its worth a read especially if you know the workings of Twitter and social media.