Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The snow was coating the ground like icing sugar falling to lie gently on a victoria sandwich. The temperature was below zero and underneath the snow lay a steely layer of black ice.

Could be the opening line of a Dickens book couldn't it? But no it was the weather conditions before our book club meeting and I was receiving cancellations faster than an airport at Christmas. 4 in less than an hour no less. Hmmm not a good start.

Nevertheless like a snow shovel those of us who did brave the arctic conditions ploughed on regardless (and it was arctic, I even had to wear my woolly hat to the pub)

I think I was most surprised at the length on this book. I read the childrens version as a child which was relatively short even including the beautiful illustrations. Being a 'proper' Dickens I expected the book to be lengthy but it wasn't and it was also not too far removed from book I read as a child.

The language was really easy to understand (yes for all those smart arses out there it is in English however I meant despite the occasional 'thou hast' the modern day reader can easily read it without needing a dictionary). One of our members hadn't read Dickens before and she commented how easy it was to get into which is something you don't expect. The book was also wonderfully descriptive. I confess, sometimes I do skip the descriptive sections of a book to pick up the story but not this time. I don't know if it's because I knew the story so there wasn't that suspense with wanting to know what happens next but I almost lingered over the descriptive words wanting to absorb the atmosphere. As with all Dickens books the names of his characters were excellent. I mean how perfect is the name Scrooge for a miserly old man devoid of happiness???

Although the book was written in 1843 and is set in the Victorian period we were surprised how well the story fits today and by how many of the expressions are still used, bah humbug anyone?

I commented on the fact that A Christmas Carol (by the way where is the Carol?) is by all means a ghost story. Ghosts and Christmas are not two things you automatically put together yet it works so well. It's totally different to all other Christmas stories out there yet still conveys the traditional message of caring/sharing and goodwill.

When asked when do you remember first coming across A Christmas Carol? we all answered the same - we always remember it being around. The members of our book club vary in age slightly yet all of us stated that the book in some shape or form was part of our childhoods particularly our Christmas childhoods. I think I speak for all when I say it's as much as a part of our childhoods as the Queens Speech, mince pies and some bloke with a beard shouting 'It's Christmas' at the top of his lungs.

It seems wrong to mention when reviewing a Dickens book but the conversation kept reverting to The Muppets Christmas Carol. The book has been made into a number of films over the years yet this is the one that I grew up with and again like with the childrens book it is remarkably close to the original story. I agree on the face of it Miss Piggy as Mrs Cratchit shouldn't work but it just does and is one of the Christmas films I look out for every year. As I said previously A Christmas Carol in some shape or form is part of everyones Christmas including mine.

We gave this book a festive 10/10 meaning that if we read it in August we probably would have marked it lower but as it's December and the feeling of goodwill is upon us it scored the big 10.

P.S.Ffor a more traditional in depth study into A Christmas Carol check out the wiki page which is worth a read.

Next book is The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

I will give the last word to Dickens - Merry Christmas each and everyone!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

A Quiet Belief in Angels by R J Ellory

Ooh how exciting. I approached the table and there were not one, not two but three new members! Except, wait, no, two are standing up, they are actually walking away, come back!!!! I smile, firmly block their path and say 'book club?' 'No we thought you were going to talk about Angels and Angel Cards' ????????? I quickly side step to let them passed whilst frantically trying to remember whether I had put words 'Cramlington Book Club' on the signs. Yes pretty sure I had. In quite large font. They launch into a short speech about how much they love Angels and everything about them and I suddenly think this could go off track quite rapidly if I don't reign in quickly. (We still have one new member, what must she think, must impress!) 'Well you're most welcome to stay and talk about books if you want but we are definitely not talking about Angel Cards' I cut in and off they popped
I had read A Quiet Belief in Angels by R J Ellory last month so to compare and contrast (and mostly because I enjoyed Angels so much) I read A Simple Act of Violence also by Ellory.
Angels is quite simply the best crime novel I've read in ages. The reason? Because it isn't a crime novel at all. In one way it's a classic who dunnit yet it has none of the classic cliches or stereotypical formula. It's a love story, It's about one mans resilience as we follow his life, it's about a little boy who wants to become a writer, grief, prejudice, anything but murder! There are whole chapters where the little girls being murdered are not mentioned at all. Yet it had you hooked - who had he shot? who was the killer that he had finally tracked down? The reader was informed from the very beginning by reoccurring italic segments that the present day Joseph was in a room with someone who he had shot. This managed to set the intrigue and suspense right from the word go.
I also loved the fact that it kept me guessing until the very end. I suspected everyone and anyone. Sometimes multiple persons on the same page! Ellory possessed the skill of leading you up one garden path and then another without frustrating the reader. It just made me want to read faster!
We actually spent a lot of time this month talking about the actual writing of the book. Now that's a first! We kept leafing through the book pointing out particular pages/paragraphs that we liked. Don't know if it's due to our new member, the book itself or our growing confidence in dissecting books. (Check this website for some good examples of Ellory's writing http://www.bluearchipelagoreviews.com/challenges/spring-reading-thing/book-review-a-quiet-belief-in-angels-by-rj-ellory/
We also talked about what drove Dearing to kill? It was never explained what drove him to it and perhaps we didn't need to know what drove a sheriff to kill little girls. Did his wife know and that was why she killed herself? Was the first girl we were told about his first victim? We certainly unearthed lots of unanswered questions.
We admired the true depth of Dearings evilness. He was cunning, framing Gunther, the only German in the vicinity at a time when feelings were strained due to the start of World War 2. Visiting Josephs mother when she was losing her mind to plant the idea of her starting the fire. And all done whilst wearing his Police uniform. The man they were depending upon to provide them with justice, the man they ran to to keep them safe. One of us also picked up on the fact that Dearing kept his uniform after he retired so he could continue luring the little girls. Urgh!
There are many many more points I could talk about here. How Joseph was a loner and didn't fit into the small town. His mother, her relationship with Gunther, her intelligence. Joseph going to prison for a crime he did not commit. His writing................. I will stop, you will just have to read the book yourself. But you get the picture it was good. We gave it an 8.5 (very nearly a nine.)
I did say I would compare and contrast and where Angels was a totally different type of crime novel A Simple Act of Violence was a totally unoriginal one. It was your A typical American cop story, broken cop with a recent bad experience out to prove himself, broken relationship etc etc. Could be any number of books you've read previously huh? It too had the italic segments but this branched into a seemingly entirely different story about the CIA and drug smuggling through South America. Yeah sure the two tied up but at times it appeared to be merely an opportunity to berate the American Government. When Ellory allowed the crime story to kick in it was interesting enough but it wasn't really ever allowed to be a crime novel. Neither was it in depth enough to be a whole Government expose thing and therfore alienating both markets.
I was so disappointed as it took the shine off Angels. When you read one book that is so good you are expecting great things and it kind of is tarnished when the second book does not match up. In short Angels soared (pardon the pun) but Violence sank. Read Angels, its great, but maybe if you decide to read A Simple Act of Violence read it first.

P.S Next book is A Christmas Carol by who else but Dickens.... Bar Humbug!!!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Wedlock by Wendy Moore

Is a book good if you all liked it but can't find much to say about it? That was the case with Wedlock. A true story about Mary Eleanor Bowes' marriage to Captain Stoney, the violence she suffered at his hand and her subsequent struggle to obtain a divorce in the 1700's.

We started off fine, enthusing about how much we all liked it until suddenly we were talking about X Factor.

Ahem. This is a serious book club don't you know

Ok so lets have a serious conversation about all the local history the book contained. Oh yes we loved the fact that it was all about Newcastle. Didn't it make you want to visit Gibside Hall that is so close to us but that we've never been to. And Bowes Museum, we should have a field trip. Now Peshwari Naan Bread is far superior to Garlic...how did that creep in?!

A Chicken Chaat discussion later and we managed to discuss how easy the book was to read. Despite it being a period book there was no archaic language making it very accessible. Despite the fact that the book was a true story and Moore had done immense research (check out the bibliography, something I hadn't come across since University) you didn't get bogged down by fact and constantly felt like you were reading a story. The only word in Russian I know is Spasibo and I only know that from a book..............I'm starting to think a theme of delving off topic is occurring don't you?

Maybe it is because we are becoming more comfortable with each other. Maybe it is because there were greater numbers again this month or maybe just maybe it's because the book wasn't as good as we initially thought. You see we went round the table and all readily gave it an 8 out of 10 which makes it a good read according to our standards but it didn't really hold us, it didn't sneak up on us and catch a hold of our hearts, it didn't surprise, it didn't twist and turn. It just delivered the facts in an easy to read format.

In one final effort to bring things back on track we discussed whether the second title (How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match) was needed. It took away any kind of suspense element to the book because as you were reading about Mary's torture (which was pretty extensive) you were left thinking well it's ok he gets his comeuppance in the end the title says so. Perhaps it would have added more to the readers experience if the book had been simply called Wedlock.

We did also spend time talking about how surprised we were about the unfairness of English Law, especially how some of the seemingly ridiculous laws have only really recently been abolished (divorce for a reason other than adultery and marital rape) but that didn't last long as french farms and second hand Christmas presents were next on the agenda.

Quite randomly it was a self confessed non reader who seemed to hold us in a conversation about a book for longest. She was meeting one of our members for the aforementioned Chicken Chaat and went on to describe a very interesting sounding childrens book about a society where black people are the dominant 'naughts' and white people are the subservient 'crosses' peppered with a Romeo and Juliet style love story. Sorry didn't get the name or the author (if anyone did please add it as a comment). It did however make me think of a possible future book being a childrens novel as they are so more advanced nowadays than the Enid Blyton I was used to as a child and its not really a genre I'm very familiar with now. Ideas on a postcard!

Talking about future books our next book is by R J Ellory - A Quiet Belief in Angels. Yes that is the one I read last month, I think I waxed too lyrical about it so I am going to read A Simple Act of Violence by Ellory instead to compare and contrast.

We have also mentioned the possibility of reviewing a Christmas Book for December which we all seemed keen on. A Christmas Carol is the obvious one but again if anyone has any different ideas have a think and let me know.


Monday, 20 September 2010

Empire of the Sun - J G Ballard

ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!! 7.35pm and only 3 people in attendance. Including me! Not a good start. However we had all read the book so there was nothing to do but to see whether we could actually make the meeting last for more than 10 minutes.

The book was suggested by a member of the group (who was in attendance) who had read it before a number of years ago. It is set in Shanghai during the second World War and is loosely based on Ballards early childhood experiences. I hadn't heard of Ballard until recently and hadn't read any of his books. This may sound strange but I'm an avid reader of books based around the second World War, I hadn't really come across any books that were based around China during the war and so was looking forward to reading it. As my husband said it was 'right up my street'.

As said above the book was based on real life but Ballard had apparently 'pumped up' the content and also removed Jims parents for most of the story. Despite this however I didn't feel emotionally connected to the story and this was a point that the 3rd member of the group agreed with me on. Ballard described harrowing experiences - death marches, starvation, but I was left feeling cold by the characters. You didn't sympathise with them. The person who suggested the book commented that Ballards other writings were supposedly quite surreal so perhaps this was his style slipping through into an otherwise true to life book. We believed that the Vincents, who Jim shared a room with in the camp were in some way the true representatives of Ballards actual experiences during the war.

We spent a lot of time discussing Jims character and I was surprised by how many points we actually raised. We started commenting on the fact that Jim, despite being quite a young boy when the book starts never seemed to be afraid. He witnesses the violent bombing and sinking of a ship, loses his parents and finds himself the only British face in an ever increasing hostile environment yet takes it all in his stride. We decided this was probably because of his upbringing. He had until that point lived quite a sheltered life and was from a seemingly middle if not upper class family. I thought the part where they witnessed the ship sinking was very monumental. It was almost as if Jim was watching his life as he knew it disappear as from that point onwards things would never be the same again. Even when the War ended life didn't really return to normal for him as he would return to England.

We discussed how strange it was that Jim seemed to be obsessed with Planes and how he almost idolised the Japanese despite them being the enemy. The term Stockholm Syndrome was brought up and to some extent we all agreed that Jim exhibited several signs however even before the war he idolised planes and the Japanese fighter pilots. We also discussed the similarities between Base and Jim. Does Base put up with Jim because he seems himself when he was a young boy? How even was the relationship between the two? How much of what Base tells Jim does Jim actually believe?

We were all very disappointed by the ending. It seemed to be rounded up very quickly as though he didn't know how to end it. It just seemed so unrealistic that his parents should suddenly reappear. Was this because he was writing from his own experiences and obviously real life don't have endings as such? Perhaps this is why there is a follow on book called the Kindness of Women. Although none of us had read it to pass further comment.

Overall we gave it a rating 7.5 with marks ranging from 7-9. I have to say that Sharon had the book with the best cover. It was a plain white picture lined in thick black that made you just want to pick up a pen and start colouring it in. Very unusual. All in all meeting was quite a success and of respectable length! Other members have been in touch since so hopefully this is the last time we will only have 3. More posters up in Sainsburys just in case me thinks!

Check out our next book its Wedlock by Wendy Moore and meeting will be Thurs 21st Oct at 7.30 in Plough if you are interested.....

Monday, 23 August 2010

Ordinary Thunderstorms - William Boyd

I will be honest with you I was worried about this bookclub. It was the month of August and I knew before hand that at least 2 people were going to be on holiday. This may not be a lot to you but when your bookclub has a rolling total of 8 all of whom have never been in attendance at the same time it's a lot. I was so nervous that I arrived super early and then made myself even more nervous by having to wait for agggeeesss for someone/anyone to turn up.

What also added to my nerves was the fact that the notice I had put up in Sainsburys had been mysteriously taken down and having only just got back from holiday myself I didn't realise until the day before the bookclub. Argh!

My regulars didn't let me down however (thank you) and there were four of us in total reviewing Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd. This is Boyds tenth outing based on a man who after being in the wrong place at the wrong time finds himself the wrong end of a man hunt for murder and has to disappear from society by living as a homeless man.

The book got off to a good start with the quote about how a simple (ordinary) thunderstorm can develop into a massive storm with huge consequences that take a long time to settle down (serious paraphrasing, totally don't do it justice, please read it). It seemed obvious that this was where the title came from coupled with the fact that Adam Kindred (the books main character) was a climatologist. I liked it, I thought it was clever and it made me want to read the rest of the book.

The general feeling from the group however was that all the elements were there for a cracking book, it had great potential and you could see the links Boyd was trying to put in place but it just lacked a certain something.

Perhaps this was because the book failed to really choose one route and stick to it. To start off you were given the impression that the book was going to be a thriller/suspense type, almost John Grisham esque with a little man up against a big pharmaceutical company but then that pattered out and Boyd started to focus on the homeless element of the story. Ok - lets just assume that the beginning was merely a means to an end to give you a newly turned homeless person and go down that route then. It failed on this count however as it lacked the grittiness and desolation that it needed. Adam was housebound again in no time at all and we were suddenly trying to resume the murder mystery tag again on very seemingly very little evidence (someone should give Adam a job as a Detective, getting the results he did on the clues at hand). Even then however when we decided on the thriller genre it failed to give us the ending required with the true bad guy kind of getting away with everything. I in particular ended up feeling sorry for Ingram as although he wasn't really to blame he was the only one sentenced to death albeit from a brain tumour rather than prison sentence.

We all screamed at the beginning of the book i.e. Adams stupidity at not only going to the mans house but removing the knife, running away and then not going to the police. WHY WHY WHY???!!!??? But I suppose you just have to swallow it as there wouldn't be a story without it. To be fair Boyd doesn't take long to get Adam to this point and there is no dwelling on the unnecessary.

We commented on the fact that it's very rare for someone to be given such a complete fresh start and in this respect we found parallels with a 1000 Splendid Suns where Mariam gained a completely different life by marrying her husband. We were surprised by how unwilling Adam seemed to be to go back to his old life. Even though he had very few ties in that he had just moved to England, was recently divorced and had relatives in Australia. He didn't even seem to want to clear his name which we just couldn't relate to.

We also commented on how quickly Adam went from being a respectable professor complete with posh raincoat to a person having no qualms about carting his dead flat mate around in a fridge and assuming his identity. This was another example of where a heavy dose of realism was needed to really bring home the bleakness of his situation however instead it felt rushed and unbelievable.

The ending kind of left it open for another book which by all accounts isn't Boyds style. From reading various comments on Amazon it seems as though this isn't Boyds best work but not having read any others we couldn't agree or disagree. We decided that it would make a good holiday read as its easy to delve in and out of with large print however it is quite a large book (not in words just in shape!). We rated it a 7.5.

Our next book is J G Ballad - Empire of the Sun which I'm looking forward to. Especially as hubby on hearing what it was said 'Aye good film, good film, it has that super hero in when he was really young in it.' (Batman/Christian Bale to you and me). If he thinks it's going to be good who am I to argue?

P.S new poster is up in Sainsburys I will be making regular checks to ensure its not removed!!!!

Monday, 26 July 2010

A 1000 Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini

Book 3 for Cramlingtons newest book club was A 1000 Splendid Suns by Hosseini. This was Hosseini's second outing the first being The Kite Runner which is now (unsurprisingly) a film.

Most of us in the group had already read The Kite Runner, including me, however none of us had got round to reading this one. We all spoke so highly of the Kite Runner that we thought it would be worth giving this one a go.

It was easily available in paperback and about average length. As with 'Runner' it is set in Afghanistan however this time focused on the lives of two women - Mariam and Laila with the uprising of the Taliban inter weaved expertly in the background. The title comes from a Persian poem called Kabul and is really worth reading. I only read it after I had read the book and found that it shed a whole new light on the book. As well as talking about the beauty of Afghanistan (which despite the devastation that is going on around them Hosseini does manage to portray) it also relates to the two main characters 'May Allah protect such beauty from the eye of man!'

I was expecting emotion by the bucket loads as I cried my heart out reading the Runner and maybe in someway this set me up for a disappointment. Don't get me wrong I really enjoyed this book and there was moments that certainly pulled on the heart strings. It just didn't pack the punch I was hoping it would.

The group as a whole loved the book and most actually preferred it to the Runner. The reason being seemed to be that it was from a womans point of view rather than a males. I was expecting Tariq to die (I told you I was expecting emotion) however nobody expected the twist as we didn't expect Rasheed to be quite so devious.

We also really loved the background to the history of Afghanistan. Most of us knew the odd bit here and there about the Country - mostly in relation to recent events and so it was nice to read something that was about something more than Taliban and Sadam Hussain. I personally had no idea that the history was so vast. Hosseini really should be commended for the way he managed to get so much of the history across without alienating the reader of distracting from the story. I also had no idea as to the beauty of the country and the part where Tariq and Laila went with her father to visit the mountain statues really made me want to go!

As mentioned last month I asked everyone to mark the book out of ten to give some sort of quick reference as to whether we enjoyed it or not. For now the label at the bottom will always have the rating in so keep an eye out. This one averaged an 8 with one person even giving it a nine! Guess that means you have to go read it then.

Oh and apparently film rights have been sold to Columbia Pictures so expect a film of this one soon

What are you thinking of the blog so far? Do you think there needs to be more info as to what the book was about? More about the author? Less of me? Please do let me know. I am also next month going to start making a note of other books that we as individuals have read during the month and recommend. Kind of a further reading list.

Next months book is Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd. Never heard of author or book so am interested to get reading. Hope you enjoy it if you read it too. If you have already read it let me know what you thought. :)

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

Book 2 for Cramlington Book Club was The Road. It was suggested by me as my auntie had just read it and had said it was a really good book but not one to read if you were feeling depressed. Nobody had really heard of it before and I wasn't able to provide much details other than 'it's by the guy who wrote No Country for Old Men and its about a father and son walking, presumably on a road, through America'. I wasn't feeling depressed and had in my mind some sort of Road to Perdition esk book (well they both had Road in the title!) so it seemed like a good idea - Ah the benefit of hindsight....

Its basically about a father and son in post apocalyptic America. It was an Oprah Winfrey book club book by Cormac McCarthy responsible for the aforementioned Oscar winning film No Country. Its a relatively thin book with short paragraphs so doesn't take long to read. That's the good news.

The bad news is its very very grim. Not gory grim just depressing. Father and son are virtually the only survivors of what I presumed was an atomic bomb. The reader is never told exactly what caused the devastation they find themselves in. They have to hide from strangers who are either scavengers or cannibals, they are constantly at risk from starvation and the father starts coughing up blood with alarming regularity. The funny thing is that nothing actually really happens in the book, there is no beginning, middle or end. No solutions are given or questions answered and I realised pretty early on that it wasn't going to end happily.

I read it with a sense of dread that nobody would turn up to the next meeting due to them thinking the book was rubbish. The tone never changes the complete sense of desperation never lets up and some of the things they witness and indeed do are heartbreaking (the baby, the blind man, the man who steals their things at the beach).

I put extra signs up around Cramlington and did extra visits to Sainsburys to ensure prime position on notice board. It must have worked as we actually had one new member!

Everyone agreed that the book was a stinker. Nobody enjoyed it although it was commented that it was well written to keep up that level of intensity throughout the whole book. We all seemed to be disappointed with the ending of the book. For a book that was so lacking in happiness it felt as though McCarthy was trying to give it a happy ending. It felt a bit of a cop out. Its saving grace for most was that it was so thin and quick to read.

What I would say however is that this book was one that kept coming back to me after I had read it. My initial thought when reading about the wife/mother leaving to commit suicide was how selfish, how on earth could she leave them to fend on their own, a mother. However after reading it I began to think how it wasn't the mother who was selfish it was the father. On the face of it he was protecting his son, trying to provide for him and keep him safe. However the world was dying, all trees were dead, the sea was black with ash winter was setting in. There was no food, they faced death daily from either starvation or the 'bad people' they had to avoid but most of all the man was dying, and he knew it. He knew he was going to leave his son in the hell on earth he had lead him to. For me keeping his son alive was selfish and cowardly. He didn't want to be alone. Surely killing his son whilst he was in his sleep would have been the bravest thing to do. There is just no way I could have left my child in that hell hole without me there to protect her. Its one thing trying to keep them safe, to guide them and hope there is something better for them but to leave him a small boy, afraid and alone was for me unforgivable.

I'm sure that others would disagree with my view point, thinking him noble to fight against all odds for survival and your comments are welcome if you do! Although I wouldn't recommend this book it certainly got me thinking and probably stayed with me for longer than most.

Next book is a 1000 Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I'm going to ask everyone to mark it out of 10 to provide a more rounded opinion rather than just me prattling on.

Happy reading :)

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

When telling people which book I was reading for the book club I was surprised by the number of people who had already read it. Kind of like when you book a holiday to somewhere you have never heard of and suddenly everyone as been. Nobody had a bad word to say about it which is pretty rare so I was really looking forward to reading it.

My auntie very kindly gave me a copy so I didn't need to buy it however it was widely available in Asda, Sainsburys (I told you we didn't buy food only books in Cramlington supermarkets) and Amazon stocked it quite cheaply.

It was quite a large book - 500 odd pages but was a paperback, with short paragraphs and relatively short chapters. It was one of three, the others being The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who kicked the Hornets Nest known collectively as the Millennium Trilogy.

I was intrigued to find out that Larsson died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2004. He lived an interesting life that can perhaps be said to be reflected in this book in particular. For example he worked for several magazines including as an editor like the books main character Mikael Blomkvist and had an interest in politics resulting in death threats.

Anyway enough preamble what about the book?

In a nutshell its about a swedish journalist (Blomkvist) who in the course of trying to nail the bad guy (Wennerstrom) gets caught up in investigating the disappearance of an elderly swedish businessman's (Vanger) grandaughter. I powered through it and hate to say I was disappointed. Maybe because I had heard so much hype I was expecting more. The beginning of the book seemed like a totally different book to the actual story. You were made to think you were going to read a post Berlin Wall dodgy dealing book where Wennerstrom typically got his comeuppance.

Not the case however! Blomkvist received a prison sentence (not usual for the good guy) and off we were transported to a little swedish town and bombarded with swedish name after swedish name after swedish name as Vangers unnecessarily large family were introduced. Blomkvist obviously tried to allow the reader time to process who was who by repeating names and connections to Vanger often and even producing a family tree at the beginning of the book however characters were not allowed the chance to develop so quite frankly the reader didn't care about remembering them.

The book then took a turn of pace again when Salander (apparently the girl with the dragon tattoo) turned up. From this point the book became interesting as it focused on gathering evidence around Harriets disappearance. I even thought at one point we were going to go all Dan Brown when bible quotations started to be bandied about but it steered back at the last moment. A brief but effective torture section emerged to be followed by a rather swift and unsatisfactorily exit of the 'killer'.

This wasn't the end of the book however. We still apparently had to deal with Wennerstrom and so we were back to feeling like it was two books sandwiched into one. I still haven't worked out how the two fit together. Perhaps being one of three this book merely paved the way for all to become clear at a later date. From what I can understand from the next two books however I don't think this is the case.

Oh and I guessed the truth about Harriet from the flower. Not to give too much away their.

It wasn't all bad however. The middle section where clues were coming thick and fast was genuinely page turning and the developing relationship between Salander and Blomkvist makes interesting scope for the next two books.

Enough of me however what did everyone else think?

For a start people actually turned up which was a relief and on the whole everyone seemed to love the book. In fact I was definitely the only one who wasn't overly keen. I was pleased as didn't want to kick off the bookclub with a book that everyone hated. They might never turn up again!

Everyone (including me) did agree on various points. For example, why was the book actually called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Salander didn't really turn up until half way through and although she was a big character the book just wasn't about her.

Everyone thought that the book didn't read as well as it should have in that the Wennerstrom and Vanger parts just didn't gel. The general consencous was that it was an easy read once you got past the Vanger family tree but that the introduction of so many characters after being submerged in eastern European financial companies with lengthy acronyms was mind boggling and unnecessary.

Overall the book was a success. Most people said they would be reading The Girl who Played with Fire with one person having started to read it already. There was also talk of watching the film which was filmed in Swedish but has English subtitles. Me think I will give it a miss but as I like to see things through to the end wont totally write out reading the next one. Keep reading!

Next book by the way is The Road by Cormac McCarthy so keep your eyes peeled for the next post.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Chapter One

I would like to introduce you to Cramlington Book Club. It has members that are not all related or previously known to me. It has had its first meeting and has even decided upon a book to review. More on that later.

I arrived at The Plough, my local pub that I had chosen as a venue, to find one person already there! Yipee I wasn't going to be on my own, this might actually work! There were 4 of us in total, all female but varied in age. I had asked everyone to bring along either their favourite book or the one they were currently reading as a starting point for discussion. I had brought along Kept, a Victorian Mystery by D J Taylor. I hadn't read any by Taylor previously and wasn't enjoying the Dickens wannabe. It was however A typical of the type of books that I read - 3 for 2 at Waterstones/best seller list at Asda. This seemed to be the general reading fodder of the group and most of us had heard of the various authors that each liked to read.

In the offerings of those that had turned up was also one of my favourite books The Time Travellers wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This triggered a conversation of how many books were now being turned into films and how Hollywood insisted on changing the stories for (in our opinion) the worst - notably Cecelia Aherns PS I Love You.

I was relieved that conversation seemed to be flowing and on the few occasions that it seemed to be slowing my nerves kicked in and verbal diarrhoea followed ensuring there were no awkward silences. Honestly I felt like I was on a first date!

Talk then turned as to what book we should review first. I had brought along a couple of suggestions - Wedlock, How Georgian Britains Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson. The former as it was based locally and had just been read by my colleague at work who loved it and the latter as my auntie had just read it at her book club and loved it so much she had bought and read the other two.

I wanted to aim for a book that none of us had read which ruled out a few obvious choices. However The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo met with a warm response as it was on the best seller list at Asda (we don't buy food from there in Cramlington only books!) and had recently been made into a film.

And so it was decided that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (that takes forever to type, think next blog it's going to have to be known as Dragon Tattoo or even Dragon depending on my patience!) was going to be the book that we would review. People drifted away seeming quite happy with promises to return next month. My first meeting had been a success.

Think I better put another sign up in Sainsburys though (complete with surreptitious replacing to prime location) advertising the book and asking for more members just in case!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Once upon a time...

I'm the type of person who has to read the first page of a new book immediately after I have finished the last page of the one I was reading. If I am nearing the end of a book I will take two to work with me despite them both being doorstop sized hardbacks just so I don't have two stops on the metro without a book to read. It seemed logical therefore for me to join a book club.

So how does one join a book club? Well I asked at the library and was told there was a waiting list almost as long as one of the aforementioned doorstop sized hardbacks. Hmmm. I was stumped as to where else to try until, by chance, I fell upon a small poster in my local Borders advertising their book club. Excellent. Well it was, for a short time until one month only me and one other person (the organiser and member of staff) turned up. The month before that the only other person who turned up was a man who claimed that the Iraq war was all manufactured by the CIA to keep them in jobs, that it was pointless to read more than one book by the same author and that women were best suited to desk jobs. We were only reviewing The Alchemist! So it wasn't exactly going swimmingly. Things positively sunk however when the announcement was made that Borders had gone into administration. That will be the end of the book club then.

I know I will start my own book club! So how does one go about that then? I will make a poster and put it up everywhere! So off I toddled full of enthusiasm, posters perforated at the end so people could rip my mobile number off to take home with them. First stop ASDA, my biggest local supermarket. "Sorry we don't have a notice board" Neither do Summerfield apparently. 3 Spar shops later and I was well rehearsed on the line "Sorry we don't accept advertisements" despite them marketing themselves as your local store. God help anyone who has a missing cat.

I was slightly despondent but I managed to get one poster onto the very bottom of Sainsburys notice board. Frequent trips to Sainsburys ensued with surreptitious maneuverings of the poster in to prime position. Now all I had to do was wait for people to ring. Which they surely would do, wouldn't they? I plagued people at work who lived locally, I gave friends my sob storey and got two people interested but my aim was a stranger. Someone who genuinely wanted to come to a book club without being there under duress.

Days passed until suddenly one of the little perforated strips containing my number was removed. SOMEONE WAS GOING TO RING ME!!!!!!!!! I checked my phone every two seconds certain that this person would be so excited about the prospect of joining my book club that they would have to ring me instantly. More days passed. The phone did not ring. I was gutted. Then it rang! It was a lovely person named Caroline, a stranger, and suddenly I was arranging dates and places.

Another sign went up in Sainsburys (again later repositioned surreptitiously) confirming time and date. Another person rang, an American lady named Johny and I was as high as a kite. 4 people would surely be enough to start wouldn't it?

Ok so people sorted (hopefully). Now all I had to do was actually plan the first meeting. What if nobody talked? I was no expert on book club procedure so frantically began making lists of things to talk about, books I have read, books I tend to buy. The bit I was most worried about was suggestions for a first book. This would set the tone for the whole club, if it was no good then my hard earned people wouldn't turn up again. Lets face it a book club that doesn't get past the first book isn't really much cop. Should I suggest a classic and go for the high brow appeal or risk showing my true colours and suggest a Richard and Judy special? In the end I decided that I would just see what people liked to read and go from there with a couple of generic ones on my list as a starting point.

I was armed and ready. Now all I needed was for people to turn up!!!!!!!!