Monday, 24 October 2016

Honour Amongst Thieves - Jeffrey Archer #inbetweeny

It's been over a week since I finished this book and upon sitting down to write the review I find a lot of the names (and there were a few in the book) have escaped me so apologies if I refer to 'him who impersonated Bill Clinton' or 'the guy from Iraq who drove them to his village'!

My mum bought the book for a pound following on from the book club reviewing Only Time Will Tell and me liking it. Let me start off by saying this is not Only Time Will Tell, it is nothing at all like Only Time Will Tell, but I do like variety from an author as opposed to feeling like you have read the same book again and again and again.

This is one of the first books I have read that actually featured Sadam Hussein. Not just referring to him as this elusive figure but actually having him speak, being in his war room and witnessing those around him and how they acted towards him. Having just read One Night in Winter I found myself likening Hussein to Stalin (please don’t take that as a political statement, just a naive reader witnessing how fear and ruthlessness ruled the day in these two particular books).

I found it funny that Archer would choose to write about American politics. I either thought he would choose to write about things from an English perspective or stay away from politics entirely. He chose neither however with the White House, the Declaration of Independence, Bill Clinton, and July 4th all being at the heart of the book.

The plot was quite far-fetched (although the build up until you found out what the actual heist was quite good and the suspense Archer built around the heist actually being executed was also good). Impersonating the president, dissembling a classic car to be carried across a desert piece by piece and be reassembled with nothing more than a spanner however was ridiculous at best.

There was humour – Scott eating two meals at the restaurant when his date turned up late (sorry 'his date' I can't remember your name!) and there were also moments of sadness, I didn’t really expect big characters to die but Archer didn’t shy away from it (although being shot in a blaze of glory yards from safety seemed over the top).

I didn’t get the love story between Scott and the secretary who was a spy (again can't remember her name, Hannah?). Scott seemed like a sensible intelligent guy, to fall in love with someone and to want to propose to them after going swimming a couple of times seemed very Disney princess esque. It was only at the end where the previous female ("his date") was mentioned that I remembered I actually wanted Scott to get with her and not "the secretary".

I really liked Dollar Bill's character (ha I can remember his name!) however I felt he laboured the point that there is no honour amongst thieves and at times it was hard to keep track of what Declaration ended up where.

Overall it was a (surprisingly) very American middle of the road political thriller. I got the feeling Scott is a character who will/has popped up before/again but to be honest I would give it a miss if he did as there are better political thrillers out there.

P.S Have you read the Declaration of Independence? How scathing is it about King George III? I had no idea! (Like I said naive reader, please forgive.)

Friday, 14 October 2016

The Captive Queen – Alison Weir #inbetweeny

I was at first slightly daunted by this inbetweeny as it was quite a chunky book and the probability of me finishing it before the next book club was slim. However my daughter (upon being asked to choose a number between 1 – 44 replied with 'well number one of course what else do you start with') indirectly choose the book and wouldn’t have allowed me to swop.

I had never heard of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the main character in the book nor her husband Henry Plantagenet. I had of course heard of Richard III (their son) and loving anything historical settled in for the long haul.

I found it quite an easy read after initial doubts. Eleanor was a remarkable lady living to a remarkable age despite many pregnancies, imprisonment and many travels.

Weir really captured how powerless women of that time were especially bearing in mind a Queen probably had far more opportunity than most other females of that time. I felt the frustration Eleanor experienced by having to adhere to her husband at all times.

I also found Weirs interpretation of the relationship between Eleanor and Henry interesting. I did wish at times it hadn’t (in the latter part of the book) always reverted to sex but I appreciated how the characters grew with age and viewpoints changed.

I really felt for Henry and the death he suffered but found him to be quite a sly character and at times really wanted to throttle him (as did Eleanor).

I have resolved to learn more about the Kings and Queens of England. I had no idea that the same man who ruled England also held most of France which was unrecognisable to what we view as France today and although I had heard of Richard III all I know is he saved the day in Robin Hood by returning from some crusade or other and discharging King John/Sheriff of Nottingham? (see not even totally sure about that!)

Anyone got any suggestions as to where I should start?

Thursday, 6 October 2016

In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Surely everyone has heard of Judy Blume, the kids author who has been around forever (forever, get it?) But who in their adult life has read one of her books? Well quite a few in Cramlington after this month as our book of the month was her (fourth?) venture into the world of adult fiction.

There were quite a few characters in the book and, particularly at the beginning, it jumped around between the many characters quite a bit. A few of the group struggled with this and to be fair I could see why.

I however loved the book, right from the get go. I just really enjoyed it, I liked all the characters and couldn't believe it was based on real life events.

I remember getting really tense when reading about the plane journeys and genuinely didn't know which way it was going to go when Miri got on the plane. Eek!

The end was maybe the weakest part of the book. I thought it simply didn't need to go so far. I also didn't really agree with Rusty and the dentist - it was so out of the blue, and Miri's newspaper article wasn't the controversial piece I thought it was going to be but I loved the description, the small things, the visit to the underwear shop, the food and the clothes.

Quite a few of the group loved Mason's character. I quite liked how there wasn't a big show down/ending for Miri and Mason as children as realistically things aren't always tied off into neat sections. I'm not sure how I felt about the adult meeting, maybe because we had something similar in our last book - One Night in Winter, but it went down well with the group.

We kind of split into two packs, those that loved it and those who couldn't get past the skipping about of all the characters. I was the former and strongly recommend giving adult Judy Blume ago.

Question of the month - favourite children's author? Don't be afraid to add your comments/questions below.

The Bullet Trick Louise Welsh #inbetweeny

Going to be a quick one this one as I am 3 books behind on the blog front (shame!)

This was a random book my husband bought me as part of a random box of books one Christmas. I had never heard of it or Welsh but it sounded interesting and wasn't too thick.

The book was basically two stories (Berlin with its bullet trick and Glasgow with its murder) featuring one man (a magician) who wove the stories together into one ending. It was unusual in that both stories (including the bullet trick) didn't resolve themselves until right at the end so the reader knew something bad had happened but wasn't sure what for quite a long time.

I thought the murder element was weak - if the envelope implicated the copper and he was so desperate to recover the incriminating evidence then why try to blackmail someone with it in the first place?

The women in the book were interesting, it would have been so easy to make the lawyer a stuck up bitch, yet she wasn't at all. Sylvie and her 'uncle' were also characters to make you think - what was the uncle's back story? that could have been a book in itself but instead readers were left to their own devices to fill in the gaps.

I think overall it had potential but didn't really deliver. Maybe it was too short to really delve into two such different stories enough. The magician and Berlin elements were intriguing enough to make it 'ok', but no more, no less.