Friday, 19 December 2014

The Polar Express Chris Van Allsburg

I didn't actually read this book, it was read to me! Mine never arrived from Amazon (unusual) but luckily I went on the Polar Express train ride the Monday before where the hot chocolate serving chefs were kind enough to read to the whole carridge the book.

It's a very short book with one member reading it on the way to work the same day of the meeting (she gets the bus I hasten to add). We decided this worked in its favour as who has time over Chrismtas to read a door stop and who wants to read about Santa and his Elves in January? The book came in two sizes a cute little pocket sized version and a large (perfect to read to children) version. The pictures were gorgeous and we all commented it would make a perfect Christmas present and could easily become a family favourite to return to time and time again at Christmas.

I love the film, it's a big Christmas tradition for my family but that didn't stop me from liking the book although there were some differences. We were surprised that the book was first released in 1985 (yes really).

There were the usual high scores at Christmas as really it had everything you want a Christmas book to be - gorgeous pictures, something you can share with the family, short but sweet and really Christmassy. Total opposite to last years choice. One of the group did give it a 4 (which was met with shock and horror) due to it being too much of a childrens book but in general it was well loved and we gave it a 8.125 rounded up to a festive 9.

Next book is I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.

Question of the month is - What will be the first book you read next year? I'm in the middle of the Tiger Warrior at the moment by David Gibbins so it will probably either be that or I am Pilgrim depending on whether I swap half way through.

Friday, 21 November 2014

National Short Storey Week - Advent

Ok so it’s national short storey week and to celebrate it I have combined the one rule of book club (to read a Christmas book in December) with one of the groups suggestion that we write our own short storey and come up with my own Christmas short storey. Ok so it’s not very Christmassy and it’s not really a short storey, more like a first Chapter/Introduction but it’s better than nothing and it is called Advent. So if you’re sick of reading me banging on about how rubbish a book is then let’s turn the tables. Read it then critique away! Eek! PS don’t forget to let me know your #marksoutoften or #reviewinanutshell on twitter @crambookclub


Christmas is coming! It’s at last the first day of December, the first day of advent. While most people are waking up to chocolate shaped santas behind little foil doors Grace wakes up to a knife being held to her throat by a man she doesn’t know. She is bound, cold and doesn’t remember how she arrived at the dark room with the damp cement floor. The man leans into her. He is dressed in black and in the darkness Grace can only make out the outline of his face. She can smell his breath, cigarettes and as he brushes up against her ear to whisper something to her she can feel his rough stubble grazing her skin. ‘Merry Christmas Grace it’s going to be your last’ The knife moves to cut as Grace screams.

Harriett returned to her seat just as the phone stopped ringing. Damn she thought the boss will no doubt have caught that. With a sign she ushered her rather plump rear on to her squeaky office chair and replaced her earphones ready to resume her typing. It was then she noticed a plain white A$ envelope had been placed on her desk, lying on top of the pile of filing she was supposed to have already done. Harriett sighed again, missing a ringing phone was one thing but not even noticing someone had arrived in reception and then left was another. It would no doubt be one of her bosses regulars who would no doubt mention it to Mr Rigby very loudly in her presence the next time they came to visit. Harriett picked up the envelope, it wasn’t addressed to Mr Rigby but Harriett knew better than to open it. She pushed back on her squeaky office chair, walked to the heavy imposing wooden door knocked and waited until the words ‘come in’ were heard before opening it. Envelope for you’. Harriett said passing Mr Rigby head of Rigby and Co Solicitors for the last 30 years the envelope. The stern very well dressed English gentleman took it from Harriett and started to open it. Harriett turned to go but just as she reached the room the expected comment came ‘I do believe the phone rang 6 times without it being answered I pay you to answer it so earn your keep.’ ‘Yes Mr Rigby’ Harriett replied and returned to her desk.

‘Who gave you this?’ Harriett turned with a start. Mr Rigby seldom entered the reception preferring to bellow his orders from behind his mahogany desk. ‘Erm I’m not sure Mr Rigby, the envelope was left on my desk’ stuttered Harriett ‘I suppose this was whilst the phone was ringing as well was it? Incompetent woman’ And with that he stomped into his office and slammed the door.

Retreating to his desk Charles Theobald Winchester Rigby once again opened the envelope. Inside was a lock of hair attached to a letter. Bracing himself he re-read its contents.

For the first day of Christmas I give to you a lock of golden hair. I have been kind, tomorrow I will not be. I will remove a piece of Grace Harper for every day of advent until I either get what I want or Christmas Day arrives. At which point Grace Harper will be returned, whatever is left of her.

Rigby reached for his phone dialled a number from memory and waited as it rang 3 and then 4 times. The phone was picked up ‘Detective Inspector Robert Crow’. ‘It’s Rigby, I’ve received a very interesting letter concerning Grace Harper’ silence followed as Rigby knew it would ‘Meet me at 11, usual place make sure you’re not followed’ came the reply. Rigby was just about to hang up when Crow followed up with a further sentence ‘God help us’. The line went dead.

Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger

It took me a long time to brave this book as I loved The Time Travellers Wife and thought that nothing could compare so why bother? Nevertheless it found its way under my bed and then into my next to read and low and behold before I knew what I was doing I had suggested it as Novembers book.

The book got off to a good start. I loved Martins storey witnessing him and his wifes struggle with his OCD (could have read a whole storey about this alone) and even Elspeth as a ghost didn’t put me off (The Time Travellers Wife had a husband who travelled randomly through time and that had me in tears so a little ghost wasn’t going to put me off)

There were also some really good moments - Elspeth going to hide/sulk in the drawer and then seeking warmth from the TV – traditionally seen as being so cold and causing lack of communication

I also loved reading about the cemetery and now want to go!

Unfortunately that’s where the plus points ended and not just for me but for all of the group.

We thought the twins were weak characters. I understood what Niffeneger was trying to impress on us by the twins needing to separate and how Valentina found it suffocating however this was only grasped at here and there and Valentina’s chosen solution was extreme, unforeseen and silly really. She wasn’t suicidal and although there might have been more going on in the back ground (Julia’s black eye) the reader wasn’t given enough to make the decision believable.

The whole love triangle was also unbelievable or was that just Robert and Valentina and what was the point of Jessica, what did she add to the storey?

The diaries that could have revealed I feel a much more explosive secret were again, like Valentina’s decision, unbelievable and confusing. We all totally lost track about which twin was who and weren’t clear even when we were all sat down talking about it ‘So Elspeth who was really Edie and was Valentinas real mother took over Valentinas dead body and then gave birth?’ Silly sentence right?

The ending felt like Niffeneger realised her word count was up and had to tie all lose ends up quickly which was done by giving everyone as far as possible a sugar coated happy ending. The twins dad knew all along of the twin switch so no big drama there, Julia couldn’t be with Martin so conveniently in walks Martins son who we are expected to think is ok because he is Martins son despite the fact he had not been around to support his father at all through the storey. Martin who hadn’t left his landing in more than a year upped, left and travelled all the way to Amsterdam in one fell swoop to live a supposedly happy and cured life with his wife. It was all just far fetched, unbelievable and convenient.

There were talking points - why did Robert leave at the end? One member of the group pointed out that Robert had been left by his father when he was young so this was history repeating itself or another example of symmetry that was evident throughout the book. Why did Elspeth prevent Edie and husband from entering the flat? Was it spite to illustrate even early on her nasty character? Was Elspeth always going to go back into Valentinas body or was it just because she realised she couldn’t keep Valentina to herself? You were left with the feeling that if there had just been more word court and a bit more thought a good book could have been unearthed.

It wasn’t though and we ended up gave it a 5. The verdict was pretty unanimous which is unusual for our group. There is nearly always at least one loan voice who dissents from the pack but we overwhelmingly all liked the beginning then thought it just became silly. Do read Niffenegger but make sure it’s the Time Travellers Wife rather than this one.

Question of the month – What’s your favourite Ghost Storey?

Friday, 24 October 2014

Only Time Will Tell Jeffrey Archer

I’ve been curious about Jeffrey Archer books for a while. I know very little about him other than he was a politician and he ended up in prison but he has been writing books now for some years and they seem to do pretty well. This isn’t the first one of his books I would have chosen but it was free on Kindle so it was the obvious choice for the group.

My over whelming thought whilst reading this book was this is ‘Paul Henke’s Tears Series’. With Henke you get a series of books following various members of a particular English family around the time of the Second World War. With Archer you get a series of books following various members of a particular English family around the time of the Second World War. Similar huh? I really enjoyed the Tears Series although haven’t completed the what was a trilogy and is now into I think book 5 or 6. I enjoyed Only Time Will Tell but it felt like I was going over old ground and that really spoiled it for me.

We all liked the characters, especially Old Jack and enjoyed reading about Harry’s time at boarding school. It was easy to read, well written (as a member of the group commented it had good grammar) but was predictable in places – Harry passing his entrance exams, Harry and Emma falling in love. It was very English, something that always goes down well with the Book Club (see the Little Village School by Gervase Phinn review). The book spanned quite a few years and enough happened to move the plot along which kept you entertained.

I do question why everyone was so keen on helping Harry, yes he had a stunning voice but why, in a time when everything would have been against him, did people keep flocking to his aid? He was a nice enough character but not to the point that the interest in him seemed to warrant. One member commented that there are people like that in life who the sun just seems to shine on for no reason. Harry was definitely one of those.

It was also a little annoying that when a new character took up the storey there was a period of overlap where their perspective of the storey we had just read was given. Archer tried to keep these parts brief and in certain cases we did learn things that we hadn’t the first time round so it wasn’t a terrible negative but there none the less.

I would probably enjoy reading the second and third books in the series (did someone mention there was now going to be a fourth?) but am not going to. I can guess pretty much where it will take me (no doubt with various twists and turns along the way) and to be honest there are too many other treasures under my bed to spend my time on. Family sagas have a tendency to expand and the once planned 3 can often turn into 5 or 6 (as happened with Henke). I just don’t have the desire to spend the next few years waiting for yet another ‘last in the series’ to be released. Having said that 2 members of the group have now also read the second book, they hadn’t read Henke (had never heard of him in fact) and have really enjoyed reading the Clifton series so my view is very tainted.

Whereas I won’t be reading the series I will return to Jeffrey Archer if I get the opportunity. I was very surprised that someone like him had written OTWT (Sorry that’s very TOWIE esk which I detest). I understand that his other books are quite varied and I would be interested to read further. If I hadn’t read Henke before I think I would have awarded the book an 8 but as I have I give it a 7. The group did score it quite highly which I wasn’t surprised about as it’s a gentile kind of book that rolls along nicely. As one member summed up ‘it’s easy to read with good characters but it didn’t blow me away and I won’t remember it in 6 months’ time’.

Group score 7.3

Interesting storey about Paul Henke. My mum was in Waterstones one day when a man came up and asked her what she thought about a particular book. My mum confessed that she had never heard of it to which the man replied he had written it. I’m not sure of the exact conversation that followed but my mum ended up purchasing the book for me as a Christmas present and the man ended up signing it. The book was Silent Tears, the man Paul Henke. I still have the book and to this day it’s the only signed copy of a book that I own. Anyway it was a quirky marketing technique that led me to buy more of his books (for a start Silent Tears wasn’t the first in the series!) and has indirectly led me to talking and therefore advertising it today. My question of the month is therefore this - Do you own a book signed by an author? If yes how did you come about getting it?

Friday, 26 September 2014

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. 7.66 recurring!

No getting round it The Goldfinch is quite a doorstop (over 800 pages) so I looked sharp, ordered the book the day after our last meeting and set about reading it the day it arrived. I even stashed it in to my hand luggage only suitcase when nipping to Mallorca for the weekend (how jet set does that sound!) Yes yes Kindle would have been lighter but I’m a fan of BOOKS!

Unlike some weighty novels though this didn’t feel wordy and didn’t seem to drag. The book could be compartmentalised into clear sections, before the museum, the Barbours, Las Vegas, Hobie, Amsterdam, Theo’s monologue, which moved the book along nicely and didn’t leave you bored or skipping pages. That’s not to say it I breezed through it, it took me right up until the day of our meeting to get it read but it wasn’t painful the way some books can be.

I did stop at around the 400 page mark and think how on earth is this 14 year old boy going to end up a man in Amsterdam by the time I get to page 800 but we got there in the end with pages to spare.

It was refreshing to read a book that was so different to others on the market at the moment. I've read so many wronged wife stories at the moment that to read through the eyes of a young boy was a pleasant change. We did comment at the meeting how it was nice to read about characters we liked/cared about. A few of our most recent books left us not giving a damn about what happened just as long as we finally got to the end. Yet with this one even with characters that were ‘bad’ we liked them - Boris even though (SPOILER) he took the painting (by the way totally didn’t see that coming!)

A few of us thought the book very hard to place initially. One of us thought it was set around the 1950s until Theo started to mention mobile phones. I also thought the book could easily have been set in Europe. Maybe because Theo started off in Amsterdam that when it took you back to his childhood I just automatically assumed we were still around there somewhere. It was only when specific places in New York were referred to that I realise oh different continent!

I did have several questions as the book ended. Did Theo really love Pippa or was it because she was his only living link to his mother/before the bomb? He started off by saying that he did develop obsessions with people and I think this coupled with the fact that he met her on that day at that time added to his feelings for her over the years. This made me lean towards the fact that he didn’t truly love her just what she represented – the past, happier times and even purity.

I also had to question as to whether the goldfinch (and the chain) was meant to represent Theo. Was he chained to a life of sorrow because he took the painting like the bird was? Did handing the painting back (OK so he didn’t exactly but you get what I mean) set him free/let him fly back to a path of betterness? He did start to go round and try to make things right with the furniture after the painting had been returned. I thought this line of thought had some weight to it yet Theo was already on the path of trouble when we met him as he was on his way to school to find out if he had been expelled for smoking and had been stealing with his friend Tom Cable. Maybe he was already the chained bird?

There was also a couple of things I didn’t get. Number one being Lucious Reeve – it didn’t really end satisfactorily with him, he stirred things up with Hobie and then we were left in the dark as to what action he took next. Did he leave them alone when he found out the painting had been returned? Why was he so vindictive? I would have liked a bit more here.

Also Welty in the museum told Theo to warn Hobie to get out of the shop as the family were on to him. For whatever reason Theo didn’t pass this message on (why?) but nobody from the family seemed to then have it in for Hobie so why did Welty insist on this? Was he just delusional at this point? Was it Welty who was in fact the dodgy dealer and Theo ended up following in his footsteps?

I know a couple of us were disappointed with the ending. Not with how it turned out but how it was written. For me it was about 50 pages too long and the seemingly endless monologue at the end seemed self-indulgent. It was the only place the book dragged which although disappointing at the end isn’t too bad when you consider how long it is.

Overall we were impressed, we liked the writing style and the characters and awarded it a 7.666666. However due to how much we liked it we rounded it up to an 8.

Next book Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer – free on Kindle apparently!

Question of the Month. – Easy one this month in an attempt to get people answering! What was the last book you read? (other than The Goldfinch of course!) Mine was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Got better as it went on when I picked up more on the themes behind it.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

So I didn’t read this book as I was on holiday when meeting was on and despite being given the book for free I never got round to picking it up. I'm stuck in the middle of Huckleberry Finn and wasn’t really inspired to leave it for a book my mum gave up on less than half way through. It’s part of a project known as the Austen Project designed to update the works of Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice and Emma are receiving similar reworkings and are scheduled for release later on in the year.

My mums biggest problem with the book was the fact it was modern – asthma, Range Rovers and IPhones all of which are so NOT Austen. I get her point but really that is the whole point of the re-workings to make them modern. If you can’t get past that point then really the book is always going to fail.

To be honest it does sound like the type of book I normally avoid, not the fact that it’s a reworking but the fact that really if you take Austen away and stick it in the real world it’s kind of a bit too chick lit for me but that is me being very prejudiced and please don’t be put off by that I haven’t even touched the first page! I do think I will give it a crack at some point as I don’t like to not read the book clubs books. I have added it to the pile under my bed!

It wasn’t just my mum though the group were equally unimpressed with this version and rated it a 4.5. That’s quite a low score and I will try to find out more reasoning behind it during next meeting. I suspect the biggest reason will be ‘it’s just not Austen’ and whereas PD James remained faithful to the setting/characters in Death Comes to Pemberley which we all found acceptable perhaps introducing Elinor and Marianne to twitter is a step too far for Austen lovers.

Comments really appreciated this month due to my lack of reading book/attending meeting

Question of the month is Which book should never be reworked?

Friday, 1 August 2014

More Warmth please it's August!

Sweet Tooth - Ian McEwan

I have to confess, I have read, but didn’t love Atonement. I know McEwan is considered something of a modern literary genius but I just can’t wax lyrical about Atonement. Having said that it’s the only book I have read by McEwan, it was a few years ago, I would like to think I am more intelligent with my reading than I was back then and I’ve spent the last month being exposed to people on twitter quoting their favourite McEwan lines of which I was impressed;

‘A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended’

And so I went into this book really wanting to like it and appreciate it’s beautiful writing.

To start with it’s a bit like a love story but with thriller potential. Then it peters out and becomes a love story without real direction but with a twist at the end that supposedly makes the whole book brilliant. Can you guess that for me it didn’t?

I guessed early on that something was going on in the background with Tom and his secret book, granted not quite the extent of what was going on but I very strongly suspected he knew about Serenas ‘double life’.

I really didn’t like Serena, I found her cold, bland and lacking in emotion. This is something we all agreed on but we couldn’t really answer whether this was because it was written from Toms point of view, who was angry with Serena and was deliberately painting in her in a bad light or whether it was just McEwans writing. I found this annoying, the whole book could have been a lie and we would be none the wiser. It left me feeling almost cheated. Serena went on about how much she wanted a book to mirror her own life and hey ho here is one. It just all felt convenient/deliberate rather than clever.

We didn’t really spend much time deliberating whether Serena actually went to meet Tom and I think this was because we didn’t really care. We did like the 1970s element of the story, it was refreshing to read about such a tumultuous time. I haven’t really come across many books that focus on this, although the books coverage was quite superficial and really could have gone to town with this interesting period of our history. We also liked Shirley and found her to be the character who seemed to have the most vitality and warmth. Was this because Tom liked her and so cast her in a positive light?

We kind of split into two camps as to what else we liked about the story – those of us who liked Toms stories (me) the manikin, the vicar and so on and those of us who liked the love storey element but thought it slightly lacking. We all could have done with a bit more tense spying action and were disappointed Serena didn’t end up in Russia as a double agent taking Tom along for the ride. We decided this would have made a better novel and challenged one of our members to rewrite the story labelling it ‘savoury tooth’!

I think for me though I just couldn’t get past the not knowing if it was a deliberate decision by McEwan to make Serena so lacking or just weak writing. Our previous question of the month was ‘if we don’t like the main character of a book do we like the book?’ and the general answer tended to be no. So why write a story with an unlovable lead?

It is a well written book, McEwan certainly knows how to write (yes I got laughed at when I said that at the meeting) but when reading reviews of it in general I came across this quote which I think sums it up perfectly “Its like an ice sculpture, perfectly formed but very cold”

More warmth please it is August!

We gave it a 5.5. Next book Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

Question of the month. I had put forward Donna Tartt - The Goldfinch as a suggestion for next months book however after a quick chat about it we decided to put it off until later in the year as it was more a autumn/winter book. I thought this was interesting and so question of the month is as follows – is there any book you are putting off reading until autumn/winter? If yes which one(s) and why?

Friday, 27 June 2014

Day 27 - Want to be one of the Characters'

I knew immediately who I would be when Book a Day turned to ‘Want to be one of the characters’.

I would be someone from the Rutshire Chronicles by Jilly Cooper. You know, Polo, Riders, Jump and so on. Why? Well they all live glamorous lives reeking of champagne, expensive perfume and designer dresses, but most importantly the bad guy always loses, the underdog always gets their day and they always always get a happy ending. Its fairy tales for adults and I love it!

Before We Met Lucie Whitehouse

We immediately found ourselves comparing this book to other ones in a similar vein - Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, both of which we have recently read for Book Club

The Silent Wife in particular had a similar female lead - isolated, didn’t have a job (or played at having a job), supposedly intelligent but very naive in other respects. Neither of which I warmed to. There were also similar male leads – alpha males, rich, expecting to get things their way. A popular trait at the moment seems to be books that centralise pretty exclusively on a husband and wife which this one did(and yep you guessed - Gone Girl, The Silent Wife and Before I go to Sleep also did). As well as those similarities I also thought there was echos of Kiss Me First where internet/technology was key – Hannah would possibly never have found about Nick if it weren’t for the internet.

I find this happens with books. One book on a seemingly new concept is written, The Da Vinci code for example and then a surge of simlar books follow suit rearely being better than the first. One of our members suggested the World Wide recession is possibly affecting this particular cluster of books, even if on a subliminal level. The male is quite successful but has taken risks (The bar in Gone Girl) and as a result is under more pressure as his seemingly perfect relationship crumbles. I hadn’t picked up on it but when you think about it there is an argument for it.

The book was very on trend – People do now emigrate and live/work in foreign countries. As a result they do have relationships with foreign people or in this case with people who are also far away from home. When this happens the extra layer of protection from friends/family that you would have had is removed, as is the extra layer of insight into potential partners family/history. So you could understand to some extent why Hannah and Mark didn’t know much about each other’s past and how much they were relying on the other to be telling the truth.

Whilst we liked that point we thought it was obvious in places – Neesha getting fired was always going to happen, the tidy bedroom was always going to be Marks. It was also very convenient at times - Hannah just happened to park in the one place the police car couldn’t see her so that Nick could grab her and why on earth did Mark not just ring Hannah in the first place and say he had missed his flight instead of triggering the whole sequence of events! No story then I suppose.

I personally thought Whitehouse could have pushed further into Mark being creepy – what if the scrap book that he kept in his old bedroom had a picture of a woman that looked like Hannah so that Hannah or at least someone physically like her was always part of his plan? The group also reckoned he followed Hannah to the book shop that day they first met. Whitehouse could have hinted at this and made Mark seem even more cunning and calculated.

The book did seem like a book of 2 halves. Before Mark returned and afterwards. I preferred the first half as I thought the suspense was best at this point and Hannah’s naivety was at its least. One member asked at what point would we have stopped believing Mark? There was no clear cut answer but everyone’s general consensus was a lot sooner than Hannah!

I was disappointed by how quickly Mark stopped loving Hannah in the end. One minute he was begging her to forgive him, telling her everything he did was for her but then in an instant he had changed his mind was trying to strangle her. Someone commented on the fact that the end of the book seemed a bit rushed and I agreed. It was quite a short book and could have done with a chapter or so more fleshing out the end.

We gave it a 5. It was easy to read (good for round the pool if you’re lucky enough to be going) and I think if I hadn’t just read 2 books on a similar theme I possibly would have scored it higher.

Next Book Sweet Tooth Ian McEwan

Question of the month. I think with this book and with The Silent Wife I didn’t like the books as much because I didn’t sympathize with the main character. How important is it to you to like about the character you are reading about? Any good examples of characters you hated but loved reading?

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Should have sold more copies

Book a day today is 'should have sold more copies'

I have no idea how many copies the following books have sold. I’m sure in at least some cases they have sold millions and have been read by many more. However I think everyone should have awareness of the horrors that happened not so long ago and the individual acts of bravery that accompanied them. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose, Schindlers List/Ark by Thomas Keneally. There are many more I could list. They are based on trues stories, based on real people and if you stop to think about it, it’s mind blowing what they went through, suffered, sacrificed.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The ONLY book I haven't finished

Book a day today is ‘Never Finished it’.

Now you all know me. There’s not a one yet I haven’t finished. So I suppose I will have to nominate the one I am reading at the moment as technically I haven’t finished it yet. But I will! Current Book – Angelas Ashes by Frank McCourt.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Hooked me into reading

I’ve always read.

When I was younger it was Famous Five, Charlottes Webb, Narnia, Matilda or The Witches. I still want to visit Kirrin Island and search for treasure! As a young teenager it was the Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew or Sweet Valley High. As a middle aged teenager (14-15? I'm making things up as I usually do!) it was Maeve Binchy and I think Evening Class was the first ‘adult book’ I ever read. But the one I am going to choose as my book a day today is Lace by Shirley Conran.

From the first line ‘which one of you bitches is my mother’ I was hooked. It was the first slightly racy book I had ever read. Girls who drank ginger beer and had clean all American boyfriends that they simply held hands with were long forgotten in this book. Lace opened my eyes to the numerous other books that were out there. I suddenly stopped looking at the ‘B’ section of the library/second hand book shop and realised there were 25 who other letters that I could consider. You can tell with ‘C’ for Conran I obviously went far!

After I had read it I was immediately on the hunt for my next book and I think that was the difference between Lace and other books I had read previously. Before I could take or leave reading. I enjoyed it but I equally enjoyed drama, or taping as much of the top 40 as I could without having the DJ speaking over the top of it. Afterwards I had to read. I always always always have a book on the go. Even if I finish a book really late at night I will get out of bed and go and choose another one and stick my book mark in the first page just so I'm not without a book. Lace did that. Whereas it’s not a classic and it certainly won’t be winning any Booker prizes it made me an addict and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Monday, 23 June 2014

A brief appearance by William Shakespeare

Once upon a time my year 9 English class was visited by a Detective. He had with him a mat and when he unrolled it the outline of two bodies were revealed like those you would find at a murder scene. Yes two bodies had been found the Detective said and it was our job to work out how they died. Our only clues were a small dagger and a small empty glass vial. Cue much ridiculous guessing

‘They were shot’ No bullet holes
‘They were stabbed to death by gang members’ only one stab wound
‘They killed each other in a fight to the death’ They did not kill each other.

The Detective tried to give us a clue but in reality just asked more questions than answered*
‘Do we have a man and a woman, 2 men, 2 women?’
‘Who died first?’
‘If A died first why is their hand over the top of B?’

We guessed for ages not really getting anywhere until the Detective enlightened us with the big reveal. ‘These two are called Romeo and Juliet and you lucky people are now going to read exactly how they died. When you’re done I want a report filing as to the facts of the case and you’re verdict as to who was responsible’. I was hooked and that is why Romeo and Juliet are my #bookadayuk ‘Made to Read at School’ choice.

*Needless to say the Detective was not really a Detective but a very convincing Drama Teacher (well to 13 year olds at least) and you will be relieved to know that no one in my class as far as I am aware went on to become Detectives!

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Husbands Secret - yes you are seeing right I am posting about this again it's my favourite cover

So for two days running I am banging on about The Husbands Secret. I apologise to those of you who have either read it and didn’t like it or who haven’t read it and have no intention to but todays book a day UK is ‘favourite cover’ and the immediate one that sprung to mind was this one.

Now if you have come here from Twitter (I’ve tweeted everyday this month you really should be coming here by now!) You have already clicked on one link to get here so if I were to turn around and say ‘I’ve already talked about this go to the previous blog’ I think I would be a little annoyed and give up. So to make it easy peasy for you here is what I said last time around about the cover;

They say you should never judge a book by its cover but let us do just that in this case.

The cover is quite simple - a glass jar (not a box) holding a butterfly, a beautiful butterfly.

But oh how that simple jar and butterfly speak volumes (queue the media studies A grade A level student going into hyper drive)

Firstly the jar and how (as Moriarty was quick to inform us) it was a jar that Pandora opened not a box as so commonly quoted. And we all know that Pandora opened the box and let loose all manner of things. Cue Celia opening John Pauls letter

Secondly the jar is a glass one, designed to keep things in, yet so easy to open. Like an envelope.

Yet if the jar is smashed all we are left are its fragments that we have to try to piece back together, possibly injuring ourselves in the process only to find its not repairable. Like Celia discovering that really it’s impossible to recover intact from a secret like John Pauls

Next there is the butterfly, so fragile, so easily broken, like a small child. Cue Polly the helpless victim trapped by her Dads secret.

If you don’t release the butterfly it will die. A bit like Celia saying if she didn’t come clean it would infect her life like poison. So you release the butterfly – such a simple act like opening a letter and everything changes.

This of course is why the creature in the jar is a butterfly and not a bee or a ladybird because this book is magnificent at encompassing the butterfly effect. One small action changes everything.

Again the creature in the jar is a butterfly as it lives for such a short time reminding us that in the blink of an eye something can end, a marriage, a friendship.

But note that in the end what was left in Pandoras jar was hope. Hope that now it is out in the open people can recover from it. I think Rachel beautifully illustrates this at the end of the book by going to sleep at Robs house.

All that in the front cover that you maybe looked at for 3 seconds? Or as a Kindle lover maybe saw once when ordering and then never saw again? Makes you think again doesn’t it?

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Still can't stop talking about it!

Book a day UK for 19th is ‘Still can’t stop talking about it’ and mine is The Husbands Secret by Liane Moriarty. Boy did I love that book!

I want to try to say something different from my last blog about it (November 2013) but my blog was so long I’m struggling to think of a new angle.

It’s about secrets and choices, the many layers of love, and how it can cripple us if we don’t let go but equally if we don’t hold on.

It did take a little bit to get going but I loved everything about Celia. It was funny, heart breaking, full of suspense and had one of the best epilogues I have ever come across. I read some cracking books last year Tigers in Red Weather, Me Before You but this one just about tops the lot.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


Book a day UK today is 'bought on a recommendation'. Mine is Wideacre by Philippa Gregory

I read this book about 3 years ago now and it wasn’t a book club choice so before writing I did a little search to refresh my memory. I came up with these two quotes

“The heroine is despicable in every possible way, yet the author clearly expects you to root for her à la Scarlett O'Hara. She commits multiple acts of murder, participates in very creepy incest, and betrays people who love her. She was horrid and I couldn’t stand her or the book.”

“Beatrice Lacey is by far the most horrible, hateful, despicable narrator I've ever read, but I found myself rooting for her throughout all her scandalous deeds- the conspired murder, the attempted murder, the committed murder, the incest, the hidden pregnancies, and on and on the list goes. I even found myself disliking sweet little Celia, as wonderful a woman as she was, simply because she was Beatrice's enemy. That, I think, is the mark of a truly wonderful author. In any other case, I would despise a woman like Beatrice, but while reading this book, I couldn't help but be on her side.”

This book certainly divides!

It was recommended to me by someone who loved the book (of course it was as otherwise they wouldn’t have recommended it!) and I have to say I fall in to the latter camp of Wideacre appreciation. I loved Beatrice and really really wanted it to come good for her.

As always Gregorys characters were brilliant, you really felt like you were there within that time period. It captured the essence of the era really well – the themes of women and inheritance and the closure of green fields and public grazing being expertly woven in to the story. I was very interested to read about that part as I hadn’t previously.

Be warned though if you like Gregorys history books about the great Queens of years gone by THIS IS NOT ONE!!!!!!!!!! I will say that again THIS IS NOT ONE!!!!!!!!! It is at times very sordid and I can totally appreciate why some people would simply stop reading it in disgust. It sucked me in though, I had to find out where the car crash was going to end. You just knew Beatrice was going to get her comeuppance but the tension built as she told one lie upon another to try to dig herself out of the hole she had so expertly crafted. It’s not everyone cup of tea but if you’re not a sensitive soul and you survived 50 shades of Grey without blinking an eye then go for it.

It’s not a sex book as I may have inferred above but it certainly has sex in it. In all shapes and forms. It is a vital part of the story but isn’t THE story and I think that makes a real difference. It’s a trilogy and I haven’t got round to reading the second one yet although it is in a box under my bed waiting so may have to dig it out once I have finished this months book club (Before We Met Lucie Whitehouse).

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

It just screams future classic!

Book a day choice today is Future Classic and Cramlington Bookclubs choice for this is Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

This was a book club choice in November 2013 but it’s one that has stayed with me despite over 6 months passing since.

It’s not topical, so it won’t date (there is no mention of Facebook taking over identities, or reality TV encouraging us all to want to be famous). It’s not trendy, so it won’t date (such as trilogies of soft porn are at the moment, tales of Irish poverty were around 15 years ago and secret Jesus codes were somewhere in between) and it’s not plot driven, so you don’t feel like you are reading it just to find out who did it only to never need to read it again as now you know who it was. You can totally read it again and get more out of it, then discuss it with a friend and see it from a totally different point of view (“yes but Ed is in love with Daisy that’s why he did that”)

The book has so much depth/so much to analyse. I can honestly see a teacher asking a question in class as to whether Daisy really was naive and innocent or whether she understood everything perfectly but chose not to. Or an exam question entitled ‘Nick was like gravity pulling everyone towards her even if they didn’t want to be. Discuss.’ Feel free to do exactly that in the comments section at the end by the way!

There were parallels to the American great Great Gatsby, it had imagery, beautiful writing and subtleties left right and centre. It just screams future classic and unlike a few classics I have previously read I really enjoyed it.

Go and check out the blog post from November 2013 while you’re here.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Can't believe more people haven't read

At the time of reading this book I thought without doubt it is the best book I have ever read. I cried bucket loads which for me is always a massive plus in a book (strange person I know). I bought it on a whim in JFK on my way back from New York. I hadn’t brought anything to read with me, I had just turned 21 (literally that day) and fancied treating myself to something to read for the plane journey. It was a hardback, not too big, not too long, not too expensive so to the till I popped.

I have never re-read it since, I always have so many other books to read that I never seem to have time to re-read ones but if I’m honest I’m a little bit scared to in case I have put on rose tinted spectacles over time and it’s not as good as I remember. I truly truly loved it when I read it though and can’t believe on my return to England no one had heard of it. Still to this day if I mention it I get a vague look. So unsurprisingly I say to you now, get out your pens and make a note of this one, stick it on your bucket list of books to read before you die. Or better still head now to Amazon or other online book sellers and purchase it, or reserve it from you library, or download it to your kindle. Whatever shape or form suits you I’m not fussy as long as you give it a go.

The book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven. The author, Mitch Albom

Book a day weekend

So Saturday and Sundays topics were ‘An Old Favourite’ and ‘Favourite Fictional Father’

One did jump out immediately as an old favourite but I’m saving it for one of the ones later in the month. I have therefore decided to go for The Last Juror by John Grisham.

Grisham was a real change in direction of my reading. Up until then my back catalogue would have fit very comfortably in a retirement home given that they were all gentile Binchy type choices. My mum at the time was a member of one of those book clubs where they send you a catalogue every month you order say 6 books over 12 months then get a free one. The free one in this case was John Grisham – The Brethren. It was about law, something that I was developing an interest in at the time so I thought I would give it a go.

BAM I have never looked back.

I loved the fast paced world of the American legal system and quickly devoured everything he had ever written. Like Binchy, he too became quiet formulaic after a time (young rookie lawyer with no money takes on big firm) but I didn’t mind, Grisham still took me along for the ride. To be honest it’s over 15 years since I read most of them and they do tend to have blurred into one another but the one that stands out still to this day is The Last Juror. It was a slightly different take to his previous ones (only ever so slightly) and had me virtually in tears by the end something that no other Grisham book has done.

I tend to not read so many Grisham books now, I think I overindulged and made myself sick of them for a while. We did read Skipping Christmas for Book Club though which was good and a big departure from his previous work. I think it’s been long enough for me now to go and read one of his newer ones and really enjoy it as I do still love crime thrillers, something which I owe massively to Grisham. Do read his early ones if you haven’t they are really good just not all at once back to back

I confessed I hit Google for Favourite Fiction Father. I just couldn’t think of any. Sure enough up came a list of 100 possibles for me to choose from. Don’t you just love Google! One jumped from the page immediately, more so because we have recently read Death comes to Pemberley. Can you guess who? Mr Bennett. I love how he handles living in a house with so many women including the infamous Mrs Bennett. He seems to dearly love Lizzie and really in a society where it’s all about money and security allows his daughters freehand to love whom they choose (good job they turned out to be Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy huh?)

This category is one though where really memory is the biggest test. I am sure there are loads of father figures out there that I love but just can’t remember at the time of writing. Please jog my memory!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Books I pretend to read and that make me laugh #bookadayuk

Ok so blog was lost to me yesterday due to work commitments but I’ve managed to steal 5 minutes today to write about yesterday’s bookaday and todays.

Yesterday was a book ‘I pretend to have read’. Now regular readers of this blog will know I always finish a book once I start it so there isn’t an obvious candidate as if I waived about War and Peace on the bus but accidently started to read the first page then I would simply have to read until the end, which I did.

I’m not a snobby reader, well I tend not to like classic chick lit genre but I certainly love a good Jilly Collins, jumped on board with the Hunger Games and read all of the Shades of Gray series (really not worth it). So, whilst I would like some day to have read Ulysses, Paradise Lost, The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Les Mis. backwards twice. I have no desire to pretend that yes I have read them and weren’t they very good!

So what can my nomination be? Like a light bulb switching on inspiration hit. I have not one but two books I like to think I have read but haven’t actually. They are (drum roll please) Watership Down and The Hobbit. Shock horror! I can’t possibly have not finished a book and then pretended to can I? Well no because, you see, when I was younger I went on a couple of European holidays with my auntie and uncle and my cousin. They had in their car a tape player, and in that tape player they inserted audiobooks of which they only had two which were (yep you guessed it) Watership Down and The Hobbit. Now Tolkein is not very sparse with his word content but even with his helping hand the number of times the two tapes were repeated on our 24 hour journeys to Switzerland and the South of France were numerous. Not only did my cousin and I became word perfect the latter tape had such an effect on my impressionable younger cousin that he has never fully recovered and now wears his hair long, owns a bow and arrow and would like to be an elf!

So if someone happens to mention Watership Down I freely comment how heartbroken I was and tell everyone who will listen that I haven’t a clue how Peter Jackson has made the Hobbit into three films when really it’s not that long but I hold my hands up and admit, I've never read them and in view of the fact I can still quote from Watership Down (“whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you”) I’m honestly not sure if I ever will.

Today’s book a day is a book that ‘makes me laugh’. Obvious choice for this one, the recently read The Rosie Project. It’s not too often a book makes me laugh but this one did. What made it stand out was the fact that it had so much more to give than just a few chuckles. Rather than repeat myself here I refer you to my previous blog on the very book (see post from February 2014)

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Tweet Tweet

So Cramlington book club has now joined twitter @crambookclub and upon joining I noticed something trending under the hashtag ‘bookadayuk’ interesting I thought what’s that? It turns out it’s this;

And for those who can’t be bothered to click on the link (or just wanted to keep on reading this exciting post), for every day in June there is a different category of book. You then tweet your favourite of that particular category every day. Ever had a burning desire to know which book with a blue cover is the most popular? Can’t get to sleep at night without telling the world your favourite fictional father? Well panic no more #bookadayuk remedies that.

Todays category (11th June) is secondhand bookshop gem. Living up in Northumberland we are obviously honoured to have Barter Books on our doorstep – a very large secondhand bookshop in a converted railway station in Alnwick however my favourite bookshop has to be in Scarborough. It’s been a few years since I’ve last been to Scarborough and I can’t remember the name of the shop but it’s the one round the corner from Boyes that is like a tardis and has books stacked floor to ceiling (please don’t tell me it’s closed).

Anyway I used to go to Scarborough every year when I was younger and this was where I would head to (along with the 2 pence machines to which I was addicted!) It was here I would scour out the very few Maeve Binchy books I hadn’t already read, the John Grisham ones that I was fast becoming addicted to and the slightly risqué Shirley Conran and Jackie Collins ones.

My husband also most Christmas’s buys me a box of books. There are all randomly picked from charity shops and have featured over the years books such as The Giles Wareing Haters Club by Tim Dowling, Empress Orchid by Anchee Min and Angelas Ashes by Frank McCourt (the one I am presently reading having wanted to do so for ages).

Every Christmas I in turn buy every member of the book club a randomly chosen book from a charity shop. It acts like a secret Santa, everyone picks a wrapped book out of the box and it’s the luck of the drawer as to whether have already read it, hate it on sight or discover a whole new author. I wouldn’t be able to afford to do this at somewhere like Waterstones (I love that shop and am not knocking it in the slightest but I would literally have to take out a bank loan to buy the 13 books I need)

I think writing this has made me actually stop and think how long ago it was before I last trawled a second hand bookshop. It’s so easy for me to head to Amazon and buy a book for a couple of quid now that it’s very rare I even enter a bookshop let alone simply browse for the pure joy of it. This is something I will seek to rectify!

You will note I deliberately have spoken about gems of bookshops rather than a gem book from a bookshop as day 28 of the #bookadayuk slightly overlaps on this point and I want to leave myself something to talk about!

Tomorrows book is ‘I pretend to have read it’

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Kiss me First - Lottie Moggach. A strange one.

I genuinely had no idea how this book would pan out. I was about 2/3rd of the way through and still couldn’t tell what was going to happen. What made Leila go to Spain? How were the police involved? Was Tess really dead? How would the story with Adrian pan out? It’s not very often I read a book and have no idea where it is going to take me. I may not be able to guess the killer straight away but I know that the book will conclude with the killer being revealed. Here I didn’t know if I was going to read about Tess turning up alive and well, Connor and Leila falling in love or Leila being charged with murder and I really liked that about the book. I was curious and in a way it really built suspense.

It was a strange one though as I don’t think I ever reached the ‘can’t put it down stage’ which I thought I would given that I had such little idea as to the ending. As I missed the meeting I didn’t finish the book during the scheduled month so it took me ages to read including one week where it wasn’t touched at all. Yet I found I was able to pick it up quite easily. There were very few characters in the book and perhaps this helped.

I found Leila’s character really interesting. The way she was so naive in some respects – sex and how close she had come to having it, removing the parking tickets as a favour to the builder next door yet she was on the ball on some things – the way women hold their handbags in the crook of their arm (guilty), the light bulb moment about buying the flat above the takeaway even though it was horrible just so she could spend more time with her mum. I found myself as the book went on thinking about the Rosie Project and wondered if she had some sort of mental illness/issues. She was very socially inept yet despite having a rubbish life she didn’t complain she just got on with it. Was this because she was so alone? The more I think about her the more I could talk about her and I love it when a character does that.

The book was very of the moment in relation to life being lived via email/Facebook. I do expect more books on this vein as people who have never known life without Facebook become adults. There was also shed load of morals/issues to discuss - What does it say that someone can just disappear and live life only via the internet? How easy is it for someone to pass themselves off as another person? Not to mention the whole suicide and euthanasia debate (latter in relation to Leilas mum).

I wasn’t sure why the book was called Kiss Me First. It led me to think it was going to be more of a love story than an on the ball look at the impact internet can have on real life. Maybe because kissing is one thing you can never do over the internet, and perhaps that is what Moggach was trying to say. We can spend hours researching someone, can reel off all the facts and figures and post photoshopped pics on Facebook but we can never truly be someone, we can never kiss, we can never properly love. I will mull that one over later.

I liked the possibility surrounding Ava Root that Moggach added at the end (won’t spoil it for you) but equally the drought in Spain offering a different ending. I cringed quite frequently – Leila stood at the bar waving her book around in an effort to accidently bump in to Connor!
I’m finding as I write this I have a better appreciation for the book. It really is a strange one as if you asked me if I loved it I would say no. If you asked me if I was really in to it I would again say no. If you asked me did I relate to any of the characters I would have to say no. Yet it was a good book with lots of discussion points and for this reason I really wished I could have attended the meeting.

The group gave the book 6.5 however I have been informed by a couple of people that the book raised some interesting questions so I can’t wait until next month to catch up and see what they spoke about. I may even have to add a mini post afterwards unless anyone else wants to add some comments????! (Always hopeful)

Next book is Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse

Question of the month. Which book has taken you the longest to read? Was it worth it in the end? The usual candidates spring to mind - War and Peace/ Lord of the Rings purely for their length but I read them one mini book at a time so they don’t really count. I’ve struggled to finish a few history books in my time that were just facts piled upon more facts (Kings of the North, Auschwitz and the Final Solution) diluting them by reading another light hearted book alongside them which only stretched the reading time out but got me through. There are a few that I had been meaning to read for years (Life of Pi) but really it’s never taken me more than a month or two of dipping in and out to finish a book.

Friday, 25 April 2014

The Hidden Child – Camilla Lackberg

Ok so this book was mostly chosen because it was a £1 from Asda however it had all the ingredients of a good read. Scandinavian crime – check. World War 2 involvement – check. Different twist on the usual male detective on the brink of burn out – check. So far so good.

The book was number 6 of a series of books featuring husband (Detective) and wife (real life crime writer) who live in Sweden and solve crimes that land on their doorstep. I was a little concerned at first that as none of us had read an of the previous novels and so may not be up to speed however Lackberg made is very easy for new readers to slot in with some of the group not even realising this was a follow on book.

As I was new to ‘team Falck’ the no doubt on-going sub-stories were of no real interest to me and sometimes got in the way of the real story. I wasn’t really bothered about Anna and her relationship with her step-daughter or Ernst the dog obtaining coconut fluffs from his new owner. For me it slowed the book down however I am aware this would be of importance to fans of the previous books.

I love Scandinavian crime as I find it fast paced and gritty but this for me wasn’t. I found it very predictable – I thought it was very obvious who would be helping to deliver the baby, that Hans was probably the officer who hit Axel and that such emphasis was placed on the woman with the doll whose husband had just died that they would no doubt be popping up in the story later (and they did).

I particularly thought the part where Patrik interviewed the woman with the doll far-fetched. He brought his wife and his daughter along to a Police interview that he was allowed to carry out despite being on paternity leave. How unprofessional?!!? Yes I know it’s only a story and there are lots of examples where truth gets in the way of a good read but I found myself shouting at the book at this point for being ridiculous.

It made me question how so many of the books had been written if the author had to shoe horn chances where both husband and wife could both investigate the same crime. One of the members of the group had researched the book (10 out of 10 for effort by the way) and had found that the town it is based in only has 800 inhabitants. Connecting so many deaths to one husband and wife seems difficult, I know Midsummer Murders manage to do it every week (more if you count the repeats) but I just found the idea of it unbelievable. Maybe as it wasn’t a Sunday night and I wasn’t sat eating cheese and biscuits like I usually do whilst watching MM. Anyway I digress.

Another member mentioned how she found it annoying that the author would constantly put something like ‘He knew what he had to do’ ‘She suddenly realised where she had heard the name before’ but then left the reader waiting another chapter or 2 until she revealed what it was. This again took away from the high tempoedness so often found in this type of genre.

I thought Maja was conveniently written – a one year old who could walk, talk and play all by herself when the script required it. As a mother of a child who is 2, I again found myself shouting at the book that that sort of thing just wouldn’t happen.

I did like reading about Norway during the War and things such as the White Buses which I had no idea about. From this the group almost decided it would have been a better book if Lackberg had taken away all the modern elements and just left it as a World War 2 book based in Norway/Sweden.

There were also too many other elements that took away from the foundations of the novel. Alzheimer’s, Swedish politics, Lesbians having babies, Step families, Babies out of wed-lock, Concentration camps and the concept of the modern male were all thrown in along with a modern day murder and various trips to wartime Norway. Nothing shone as nothing had the page space it needed.

It’s a shame as they were all good points that really could all have had a novel written about them but instead we were left confused, frustrated and simply not caring. I won’t be going back to read the others.

Book got a 5.5. Next one Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach.

Question time – What is your favourite series of books? Tough one for me as I immediately thought Harry Potter but then I also love (Guilty Secret time) the Jilly Cooper, Rutshire Chronicles Series. Hunger Games were probably the most recent I enjoyed (I literally devoured them) but how can I forget the classics such as The Famous Five and (wait for it) The Babysitters Club! Happy memories.

Monday, 31 March 2014

The Cuckoos Calling by the Author of He Who Must Not Be Named.

The Cuckoos Calling – Robert Galbraith

We all approached this one knowing it was written by JK Rowling who of course wrote the Harry Potter novels or in this instance the He Who Must Not Be Named novels.

Much to my surprise we had a couple of members who had not read any Harry Pot… sorry… He Who Must Not Be Named and some who had read one or two but hadn’t liked them. Really?? Some of us had read The Casual Vacancy Rowling’s first effort at published adult fiction (not me) but nobody seemed overly impressed by it. So I was curious as to how this book would be reviewed.

We initially discussed why Rowling wrote under a pen name. I could certainly understand why she would want to – clean break, to prove to herself more than anyone that she can write successful adult fiction however we were all a little bit sceptical as to the leak to the press. It all worked out very conveniently in the end.

I was curious as to why she choose a male name – Robert. J.K. I suppose was open to interpretation was open to interpretation so why not a similar ambiguous initial? One member raised the point that people don’t want to read crime novels by women – really? I haven’t spent too much time thinking about this but if it is true it’s interesting.

Anyway whatever her reasons and deliberate leak or not it worked to her advantage as here we are talking about the book.

Let me begin with Cormoran Strike. Excellent name but then she has always been very good at that. Initially I was disappointed that the main character was a broken detective who had once been very good but was now falling apart at the seams. It’s just such a cliché. However this one had a rock star dad and a missing leg so had slightly more going for him than other Detectives I’ve read. Or less I suppose if you are counting limbs.

I thought Robins engagement was an excellent start to the book. It’s unusual to start a crime novel on such a note and it was a good tonic to Strikes initial clichédness (making up words now sorry).

I loved Robin and the highlight of the book to me was Robin and Strikes relationship. I often found their conversations amusing - how their responses and actions would change depending on the others tone of voice. We all liked how Robin pretended not to know that Strike was sleeping in the office. Her character was very interesting, the slow unravelling of her relationship with her fiancé, her childlike enthusiasm at playing detective yet her savvyness and intelligence. She made an excellent sidekick.

We started talking at this point about how good a TV show it would make and I agree. The setting of the book especially would lend itself. A group of probably B list celebrities and the circles they moved in. I enjoyed reading about them and particularly thought the notoriously private author used the opportunity well to have a swipe at the press. Didn’t she have her phone hacked too?

I struggled slightly with names. It took me a paragraph or two to place each character and during the meeting I struggled to remember who was called what. I always think this isn’t a good sign however Strike and Robin were easy to remember which I suppose is the most important thing.

The book was very traditional in some respects with the whole building up of lots of little clues and putting them together in a very Poirot-esque way. The water on the stairs, the removable bag linings for example. Although there could have been a few suspects I didn’t feel like I was deliberately led up the garden path which really annoys me when it comes to crime novels.

The only real weakness I thought - and there is a big spoiler alert here – was why would the killer hire a detective to investigate the murder he committed? Rowling (Galbraith) tried to explain that it was all to do with the missing will but this just didn’t cut it for me.

A real plus point though was the setting up for another book that was very evident even from the off. Playing the long game is something that Rowling did expertly well with the Pot... He Who Must Not Be Named series and I’m really looking forward to seeing how Strike and Robin develop, does he get himself out of debt? Does his father come in to it more? Do we get to hear more about his mother’s death? Does he manage to get somewhere to live? I guess I would read the next one (and there is it’s called The Silkworm). I won’t rush out to buy it, but put in my path I would definitely give it a whirl.

We gave the book 7.5. There were a couple of high scores however one member gave it a 2 on the basis that there was too much going on. I could see her point – there was a lot of setting up for the next book and there was a lot of chapters where seemingly not much happened however like I said it’s a slow build to the Poirot/Columbo like ending and at the risk of sounding like Tesco every little bit helped.

Review over and I’ve only mentioned He Who Should Not Be Named 3 times. Overall then a successful second venture in to the non-wizard world with definite potential for more.

Next book the Hidden Child by Camilla Lackberg

Question of the month. I mentioned above that one member suggested that people don’t want to read crime novels by women. Is this true? Who are your favourite crime writers?

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion

I wasn’t too bothered about this one when it was suggested to be honest. It looked a bit light weight and I generally don’t laugh out loud when my husband does at the Big Bang, The IT Crowd, the Inbetweeneers (Insert other similar funny things here) so thought a book described as ‘comical genius’ wasn’t really going to do it for me.

Nevertheless I bought it and proceeded to boldly go where I have not gone before and read my first comedy novel. And yes I did find it funny at times. I wasn’t wiping the tears from my eyes but it did raise a smile more than once.

I think it was because it was a very visual book and by that I don’t mean there are descriptions of scenery and starry skies. You could just totally see the dance scene taking place as you were reading it and the part where Don tries to buy Claudia a scarf in New York. We all decided it would make a brilliant play or even television show and reading the authors notes it does appear as though it was originally written with this in mind.

I also found myself really liking the characters – we discussed this actually and how it was different to our last book The Silent Wife where I didn’t like anyone and consequently struggled to care/want to read to the end.

I do think that about half way through the book I was finding it a bit bland however it was really easy to read so I powered on through. At one point I couldn’t predict how it was going to turn out – whether Rosie would end up with Don or not and I liked that a lot as I expected it to be very predictable. It was also interesting that the book was from Dons perspective as so many similar books are based from the woman’s point of view. I forgot to mention that at the group, did anyone else pick up on this and like it?

I found it interesting to read about Aspergers/Autism and thought stepping back from the book that Dons character was a particularly good one. He was leading a successful life – own apartment, job of some authority, black belt in martial arts and could take apart a lobster blindfolded. Yet accepted the fact that he would probably never get married due to his inability to find a partner who would accept him.

Dons metamorphosis confused me a little - was the author trying to say that all you need to do is change everything about yourself to obtain the woman you love? Or that Don wasn’t really suffering from autism, he just needed someone to show him how to let go and live loose? Or, you just need to be fake and learn acceptable responses to fit into society and to gain a life partner? I think this is one I need to mull over, over the next few days. Your thoughts on these points would be welcome!

The group also discussed how Don became friends with Gene and what Gene actually got out of the relationship (other than being woken up at 3 in the morning by a phone call from Don). It was interesting that it was Don who stood up to Gene about his womanising but that Gene actually seemed to listen and by the end of the book did seem to be trying to mend his ways.

I think there is definitely more to say about the ending and about why exactly he ended up with Rosie but overall I look back on this book with fondness. Oh and when did you guess it was in Australia? I was genuinely half way through the book before I realised!

We gave this book a 7.3 if I recall rightly with pretty much everyone giving it between 7 and 8. It’s been a while since we have had such a consistent scorer as we now have such a diverse group so must be good.

Next book – The Cookoos Calling by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling

P.S Thank you so much everyone for the Waterstones voucher – it was a lovely surprise and a lovely early birthday present.

Question of the month – Which book if any have you found laugh out loud funny?

Friday, 24 January 2014

Annual Review 2013 - plus chocolate

It’s New Year again already so time for a quick look back at the books we reviewed in 2013. Just a quick bonus blog as I’m very busy running and not eating chocolate (it is January)

The stand out books for me this year were without doubt Jojo Moyes – Me Before You and The Husbands Secret – Liane Moriarty. It’s hard to pick my favourite out of the 2 as they are quite different but I think for surprising me the most and teaching me never to judge a book by its cover I will choose Me Before You. It made me cry!

Must not eat chocolate

Worst book
We have had a few 5.5 looking back at the scores – Gone Girl, Sense of an Ending, Half the human Race but the lowest result from pretty much every one was Christmas Magic. Not about Christmas, too repetitive and predictable. Didn’t even give off a warm feel good Christmas glow that would have enabled us to give it higher marks.

I do not want to eat chocolate. Really. No I don’t.

Most attendance
We now have a massive 13 members and to be honest at times it can be hard to hear everyone if the pub is quite busy – wasn’t a problem this month funnily enough. If it goes on like this we may have to close doors or look at alternative venues which I really don’t want to do. Brilliant achievement though, thank you everyone for still turning up

I don’t even like chocolate. It tastes horrible.

Liked by all
The books that was probably the most well received by everyone was Tigers In Red Weather – Liza Klaussman. It’s a little cracker of a book and it’s a hard job to cater to everyone’s tastes in the Book Club.

Worth a mention
The Little Village School – Gervaise Phinn and Northanger Abbey – Jane Austin not necessarily loved by all but definitely (in the case of Northanger Abbey) by me.

Apples are SO much nicer than chocolate

And that caps a whole year of blogging – not a book missed! I have successfully completed last year’s New year’s resolution. Yeah!!!!!!!!! Told you the blog was short and sweet. Any others that stood out for you? Now must go back to avoiding chocolate.

Double Trouble!!

New Year, new book club – we had to review TWO books this time which is a first and at first a tall order (or so I thought). However even when working right up until Christmas Eve and having more Christmas parties than you could shake a stick at, by New Year I had read them both and was in fact on my second post book club book(s) read. Trueman Capote in Cold Blood and Dark Fire CJ Sansom if you must know.

The Silent Wife – ASA Harrison was first on my list as I managed to sneak it in with the weekly shop at ASDA.

I read this book super quickly as I found Harrison had an uncanny knack of getting me to read the next chapter without me even noticing. Never the less I found the book dragged and wanted the plot to move on quicker.

I didn’t like any of the characters even Jodi which confused me. On the face of it why wouldn’t I like Jodi – a badly wronged wife who was having her home taken away from her by her cheating husband who had gotten a girl half her age pregnant? I should have been cheering for Todd to die and willing Natasha/Natalie (can’t remember her name) to get her comeuppance. Yet I didn’t really care whether Todd went back to Jodi or whether Jodi tried to crush more sleeping pills into his tea.

Ironically Jodi wanted to avoid being like her mother by not marrying and not having children but she missed once crucial point - financial independence. In the end she ended up just like her mother - not saying anything, and look at damage she caused by not saying anything! Not just to her marriage but to her brother as well.

What was the whole thing with the hives/HIV? It had potential to be another twist in the tail – hurt Jodi even further, make it look as though Todd killed himself when he found out he was HIV positive instead of being murdered, even making it look like Natalie/Natasha killed him or had cheated on him and become infected yet it petered out to nothing.

I did skim read parts, thought it took a long time to come to Todds departure and then found the ending all too easily tied up.

The Group had a couple of interesting points to add to the above. One lady in particular thought that perhaps Jodi had killed Todd however the police couldn’t pin it on her and Dean who fit the bill took the cop for it. It was an interpretation I hadn’t thought of at the time but looking back it fit with Jodi backtracking from the whole situation stating she would have turned herself in and therefore she was really a good person. It was Jodi’s way of protecting herself and keeping things on a surface level that she did very successfully throughout the whole book. Her friends were seen on a rota system, her family not kept in contact with, everyone was kept at a distance including Todd. This was reiterated by the fact she only took on clients that had a certain level of mental illness – nothing that would push her or cause her emotional distress. She didn’t really seem to be close to anything. Looking at it from this point of view the book was sad in some ways as she entered into the relationship with Todd as seemingly relatively sane, he had no money, he adored her and asked her several times to marry her. Where did it go wrong?

I think I definitely got more out of the book from the book club than I did actually reading it and whereas usually I love finding different interpretations and meanings by the time of the meeting I had gone a bit past the point of caring so kept my score at a 6. The group overall gave it a 5.5. It varied massively in range from 10-4 so massively split the group.

Next on the list was Death Comes to Pemberley by PJ James a follow on from Pride and Prejudice (shock horror) that I really fancied reading. Now we have reviewed this type of thing before – Horowitz – Sherlock – House of Silk - which faired fairly so-so however P&P was legendary amongst our circle (my mum at least) so it would be interesting to see how it faired amongst diehard fans.

I liked the way it recapped over Pride and Prejudice so that at least readers who had not come across the story before (and there are some) knew who was who and what was going on. This carried on throughout the book and was required as James relied very heavily on past events to carry the story (not a criticism why wouldn’t you with P&P?)

The book is what you would expect in many ways, very English, polite society, ladies and gentleman which again I really liked. Am I a sucker for a good old English yarn? Northanger Abbey, Little Village School. Interesting hadn’t thought about that before.

I’m pleased she didn’t stray too far from where Austin left the characters – there was no killing off Jane or something equally as ludicrous, which is a good thing as nobody wanted to see Darcy dead or such like (Helen Fielding take note!) The book seemed to be quite warmly received by the group and when questioned seem to pick this as the main reason. They loved P&P and wanted a continuation of it without breaking away from the happy ending Austin had provided. The concept therefore of a murder mystery involving the characters but in no way putting them at risk was a good one.

Ignoring P&P, in terms of murder mysteries I didn’t find it the greatest, which is a surprise considering the author. I didn’t guess the killer but then how were we supposed to? (won’t comment more on this point in case you haven’t read it!). I also found there was too much going over old ground – the trial seemed to just rehash all that we had already discovered first hand. This was in addition to the substantial references to P&P. I wanted to read a new book not an edited version of the first which it sometimes felt like. I feel the word count could have been used to develop the mystery part of the book more as most of us approached the book with prior knowledge of the characters anyway.

I also found the book lacked the humour that P&P had. There were glimpses - the recap where town gossips decided that Elizabeth had set out to capture Darcy right from the moment she first clapped eyes on him but not enough for me. Yes I know it was a murder mystery and therefore humour would be short on the ground but I wanted more and I was longing for Mrs Bennett to make an appearance which she never did.

So, a very English, slightly disappointing murder mystery with one or two familiar names and faces along the way. But hats off to James she is one very brave lady to mess with Austin!

I gave it a 7 and the group gave it 7.5, quite even scores all round.

PS The group generally didn’t seem to like the TV version of the book the main reason being that the actor playing Darcy just wasn’t Darcy. Interestingly nobody picked this as a fault with the book thinking that James captured Darcy really well.

Next book The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

Question of the month – As mentioned above James isn’t the first to take on a well-loved book/author/character and give it their own spin. Bond, Sherlock, Peterpan. Are they automatically going to fail or do they have a place in their own right? Any good examples?