Sunday, 13 April 2014

Book Review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Matthew Quick
Last October I read Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, after deciding I wanted to read the book first before watching the movie. I tend to do this quite often. This turned out to be an excellent choice as I could not put it down. It quickly became one of the best books I have ever read. This got me searching for other books by Matthew Quick. I noticed that one of his latest novels 'Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock' was coming out in paperback in early 2014. After paying a visit to my local Waterstones I came home and could not wait to start. Was Silver Linings Playbook a one hit wonder or is Matthew Quick a genius writer and story teller? 
The main character, you will be surprised to know, is an 18 year old called Leonard Peacock. A troubled teenager whose parents don't care for him and has very few friends. Leonard is planning a murder-suicide on his 18th birthday but has to say 'Goodbye' to 4 people he considers friends first. Yes, I know you are probably thinking this does not sound like a story you would like to read and sounds depressing, but from page 1 you become hooked. On the back of the book there is a quote from Graeme Simsion that says "I was with Leonard on every page" this is so true. Matthew has a great way of creating characters that you actually start to believe you are them. As the book goes on and you find out more and more about Leonard, you start to think that no one can help him and the book becomes so raw and real. The book is so fast paced that you have to keep reading, you go through so many emotions from being upset to laughing out loud. One line in particular gave me the giggle fits for ages that I had to put the book down,  "Maybe if we would just picture our enemies jerking off once in a while, the world would be a better place." Yes, I know it is quite immature but I could not stop laughing.
I liked how the book kept the characters to a minimum and, like Leonard,  they were so believable which made the story so real. Walt was one of my favourite characters; an elderly man that lived next door to Leonard and one of the few people he could call a friend. Maybe, it was because he reminded me of my Granddads a bit as they were super cool. Herr Silverman (Teacher), Baback (Iranian violin player) & Lauren (Pastor's daughter) made up the other friends that Leonard relies on more than he knows. I liked that you did not find out until 3/4 way through the book, what Asher(baddy) had done to Leonard for him to want to murder him.This kept you guessing all the way through,  and when you found out it was a harsh reality that this world can be a horrible place sometimes. On this occasion I guessed wrong as to what happened,  but this twist adds to what is already a great story.
This book touched on mental illness and the harsh realities that comes with this. So many people are na├»ve when it comes to this subject, but after reading this it makes you wonder if there are people out there crying out for help, whether they are a close family member, a friend or a work colleague. It actually made me want to write a letter to an 18 year old me about what the future holds. We all know from being teenagers that growing up is a very scary thought, whether people admit it or not.
I scored this book 5 out of 5 which answers my question from earlier. Matthew Quick is fast becoming one of my favourite authors and once payday comes along I will be purchasing the rest of his books. I fully recommend that you give this book a go and if you have still not seen the movie Silver Linings Playbook then please read that book also. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is one of those books you will never get rid of and keep going back to read. Thank you Matthew....
I would love to know what you think of my review and if you have read the book what your thought are as well?
Speak soon

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Watching US sports from the UK

Watching US sports from the UK
Last week the Baseball season started in The US which signalled for thousands of UK MLB fans 7 months of very little sleep. This I'm afraid is what we like to call time zone problems and the price we pay for our love of watching live US sports from 3400 miles away across the Atlantic ocean. If like me you also love the NFL then we have had our 2 months where we catch up on our sleep and are ready now for no sleep till after next years Superbowl. It's the fans that also love the NHL and the NBA that I feel sorry for as they never really have a break and suffer all year round. You read in the media all the time as to how much sleep humans can survive on. I know I can vouch for thousands of British fans that some days you only need 3-4 hours.
I'm sure like myself if you are a fan of any of the major US sports you have family, friends and work colleagues that think you are sad and we have all been told that they are boring, way too long, have adverts every 40 seconds, and I know that someone has asked you more than once "why do they say they are world champions when its only Americans that play". The one I get a lot especially living in Leicester which is a huge rugby city is that in football (NFL) they are not real men as they have to wear helmets and pads at which point I always point them in the direction of Martin Johnson, the former Leicester, England & British & Ireland Lions captain and huge San Francisco 49ers (good lad) fan who also used to play with the Leicester Panthers in the 80;s our former American football team where Sean Payton the current head coach of the New Orleans Saints was once quarter back. I also like being told by huge test cricket fans that football is way too long. so a game that last 3-3 1/2 hours is longer than a game that last 5 full days where they have lunch & tea breaks and the game can still could end in a draw. Don't get me wrong I am a massive fan of cricket especially test matches and I love rugby once having a season ticket for 10 years at the Leicester Tigers.  I just get frustrated that people always use the same reasons for not liking US sports and I'm sure other people do. I wish they would just say I don't like it.
I first got into US sports in the mid 80's when channel 4 used to show NFL games from America and my older brother Rich got me into this. I was only 6 and decided that I needed a team to cheer on. Who do you pick to support? it's not like picking a football team here in the UK where most pick their local team or a team where other family members have supported for years. Yes you may have family members in America or Canada that have favourite teams so you chose them but it is a big decision for us UK fans as this decision is a life contract when it comes to cheering on US sports. In the 80's we had very little choice when it came to buying merchandise I know that in the shops they had either the Miami Dolphins or the Chicago Bears,  this was mainly down to Dan Marino's rock star status as a player and William "Refrigerator" Perry. The only other teams that I can remember you could buy merchandise for but even less than the Phins & Bears was the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Francisco 49ers. I remember thinking about this long and hard but decided on the 49ers as I loved the name and at the time one of the best teams in the NFL (Yes maybe I was a glory hunter). That was it my NFL team contract had been made. Why we choose a team to support is different for everyone, it could be as simple as you like the name, you like their badge, they could be named after your favourite animal or play at your favourite holiday destination. Then like in any sport you choose to cheer on the best team at the time you start to watch, this again like in most sports is always frowned upon but it will always happen and it always will. If that is why they choose to cheer on that team then that is their decision not yours.
As the 90's turned up and technology improved we started to get the NBA over here and I remember at school that everyone went basketball mad. You had the Michael Jordan effect for the Bulls, the Lakers because they were, well the Lakers and another team that was popular was the Orlando Magic. Kids everywhere where wearing basketball jerseys and baseball caps with the team they had chose to cheer on. Our local park even got a basketball court fitted and people stayed behind after school to play. In the late 90's Channel 5 started to show baseball for the 1st time and I always like the sound of this sport but never knew the rules so I started to watch it and researched the rules online. It did not take me long to love this sport. As a 49ers fan it only made sense that the San Francisco Giants were my team even though at the time it was mainly the New York Yankees that were shown on TV. Maybe because they were such a great baseball team and enjoyable to watch.
I'm sure like most UK fans of US sports they pick a city/state and decide to support all the local teams of the other sports. I know one of my best friends Ben started with the Dolphins which lead onto the Heat and as of that cheers on the Marlins. Most Patriot fans also cheer on the other Boston teams but then you get some fans that pick teams from all parts of America.
Like most fans here in the UK I had a small group of friends and family that loved US sports so there were not many people I could talk baseball or football with like the other popular sports in this country. Thanks to social media especially Twitter it has opened up a whole new world for fans like me to chat and discuss all things US sports. Most of my followers on twitter are from the US and it's great to chat to people who regular go to major sporting events of the teams you support. I also have a large amount of followers that live in the UK that love sports from across the pond as much as I do. I am currently in keeper leagues for fantasy baseball and football with people I only know on Twitter. You also see fans that do fantasy hockey & basketball. I know a group of UK fans that will do mock drafts and so many that will fill out their March Madness brackets. Thanks to Twitter I know I enjoy my US sports a lot more as I feel like we are in a large community that love the same thing.
Sadly I have not been to the US to see a football game live in person but this is one of my life dreams to achieve one day. I have however been to a couple of baseball games whilst my wife and I were on our Honeymoon back in 2006. We got tickets at AT & T park for a night game against the Marlins. We sat right behind home plate in the upper tier and had such an amazing view. I know I am being a bit biased but the Giants stadium is just brilliant and I believe one of the best. That day a certain Barry Bonds hit Home Run number 716 straight over the centre field wall. I remember my emotions getting the best of me and tears of joy started to pour out. The feeling was just out of this world. The Giants won 14 - 2. Whilst we moved onto New York we went to the Old Yankee Stadium to watch the Yankees V the A's which again was brilliant just being at a live baseball game at a different venue. You hear stories of UK fans making annual pilgrimages to America or Canada to watch their favourite teams play live every season. This will be their annual holiday which shows how much US sports means to some of us here in the UK. What I do like is hearing stories of people who do not normally watch US sports go to a game whilst they are on holiday. It's mainly basketball or hockey but their experience is always a good one that they talk about all the time.
Each year for the last 7 years the NFL has played a live league game at Wembley Stadium in London. Last year we were lucky enough to have 2 and this year we have 3. 87,000 UK and Europe NFL fans pile to the capital of England all wearing the colours of their favourite team to watch, enjoy and celebrate the NFL together. We have been very lucky as to the teams we have seen. In total we have seen 13 out of the 32 NFL teams play and add another 4 new teams this year. I have with my friends been to all 8 games and have tickets for the 3 games this year as well. There is talk of 4 games next season and there is always that talk of a NFL franchise moving to London. Me personally, I do not want a franchise, this is a US sport after all and should stay in America. I am very happy that we get live games in the UK but lets just keep it at 3 a season. We all have our favourite teams that we will support and I know that I will not stop supporting the 49ers to support the London Jesters. We are onto a winner here in the UK lets not push it too far and ruin the relationship we have with the NFL and it's fans. As well as the NFL the NBA are regular visitors to London who play at the O2 Arena and I know that like the NFL the NBA fans love it. I would also love for the MLB and NHL to come over as well one day in the future.
What does it mean to be a US sport fan living in the UK? it kind of takes over your life and sometimes you plan life around it. We have so much access to watching live sports now. Fans pay extra TV subscriptions like Sky Sports, Europe ESPN, Premier Sports. Most people I know spend the $150 a year for NFL Game Pass, I myself pay the $130 a year for MLBTV likewise fans pay for the NBA and NHL. We set our alarms for 1:30am to get up and watch our favourite team and go back to bed at 5am when we start work at 8am. We all play multiple Fantasy leagues. Most people take annual leave from work the day after the Superbowl. People take the week off for the World Series so they can stay up all week. We start eating snacks and US beers to make us feel like we are there. Are we crazy? yes we are. Are we dedicated? yes we are. Would we have it any other way? no we bloody well wouldn't.
I hope you like this blog. I would like to hear your thoughts or stories so let me know. Sorry if I bored you haha.
Speak soon