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Showing posts from 2016

The Santa Klaus Murder - Mavis Doriel Hay

Ooh an Agatha Christie style murder mystery set over Christmas for our December book club (#oneruleofbookclub), and chosen so easily as opposed to previous December book choosings it had to be a winner!

And it was for some of us who loved the post war, upper class England setting. It had all the hallmarks of a classic whodunit (the country house isolated by the Christmas bank holidays, the family gathering, the changing of a will) and was peppered with Christmas festivities (do you send a second present if you can't remember whether you sent a first or do you risk not sending any at all?)

The book however created a great divide between the group and every 9/10 was countered by a 5 or 6 as those in the against corner couldn’t warm to the self-centred, money grabbing characters who too many times had forgotten something of vital importance as 'they didn’t think it was relevant at the time'. It's a murder investigation why would a car driving away from the scene of the c…

Aftermath - Rhidian Brook

On paper (boom boom) this book was right up my street. British soldiers and their families in Germany following the second world war, an angle that I hadn't really read about before appealed to me.

However this book left me cold. I found it very predictable, I didn't like Rachel, I didn't get why Ozi and his crew kept appearing. There were too many characters and issues spread across too few pages preventing anything from fully forming.

There were good parts, I liked reading how the British wives shopped behind blacked out Windows and were allotted an inventory consisting of champagne flutes and butter knives depending on your husband's rank. I also found it interesting to read how the British dealt with the Germans, camps, questionnaires and cleaning processes are things you don't associate with England during the war.

Yet these issues were not given the space they needed to shine. Instead being submerged by German street kids carrying around their dead mothers (…

David Copperfield Charles Dickens #inbetweeny

Haven't written anything for a while as I was reading the doorstop that is David Copperfield. 700 plus pages of small writing can often leave you loosing the will to live but this didn't once. Yes I wanted to get it finished but only because I had a stack of other books waiting to be read not because I was finding the book tedious or boring.

I believe that the book was initially serialized and I think you can tell as each chapter was a little interesting story all by itself. I loved the characters especially David's (or should I say Trott's) aunt.

I was surprised by Dickens at some points - noting that the food in London wasn't as good as the food in the countryside due to the environment the animals had been raised in was way before its time!

Yes there was a certain predictability in the book but I really didn't mind. There was enough going on around to keep the reader entertained until you got there.

There was humour, villains, tragedy and triump by the bu…

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 …

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 husba…

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 ou…

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 '…

The Axemans Jazz - Ray Celestin #inbetweeney

This has probably been my favourite inbetweeny so far. It was a present from my mum who liked the look of the cover. Based very loosely on real events it took place in New Orleans in the 1920s when jazz, racism and the mafia were rife.

I really enjoyed the three thronged approach used by Celestin. Who out of the three detectives was going to catch the killer?, could they all be right or were their clues/trails leading them down the garden path?

The 'catching' of the killer (sorry trying to not give too much away) was perhaps the weakest part of the book but I loved the ending and went away frantically googling Louis Armstrong to learn more.

I liked both Michael and Luca and wanted them to make up. I questioned early on how things would pan out for Luca – realistically how could he ever escape the mafia either in Italy or America?

Celestin really caught the flavour of New Orleans, the grizzly underworld of prostitution, opium and poverty coupled with the flair of its music and…

One Night In Winter - Simon Sebag Montefiore

A signed copy for 1p on Amazon (plus postage)! Sorry, had to get my little boast out of the way. Now that that's done I can talk about the book. I had never heard of Montefiore before although a few of the group had read Jerusalem that by all accounts is quite good.

Book Club fact alert:
Did you know Montefiore is the husband of author Santa Montefiore who is the sister of Tara Palmer Tomkinson? That’s a lot of surnames!

The book was suggested by our Russian literature fan and is loosely based on the 'the Childrens Case' where children from higher ranking families are caught up in a murder in Stalin's Russia.

I really enjoyed reading about how the seemingly untouchable upper class children who really were quite innocent were embroiled in a conspiracy to overthrow the government and how skilled the interrogators were at twisting words and skewering the truth. This is where the group split though as at least 3 of the group couldn’t get past violence inflicted on the chi…

The Man in the High Castle Philip K Dick (Inbetweeny)

Having seen this advertised on television (although I haven't watched it due to me not having Amazon) I was immediately interested in the concept of what the world would have been like if Germany and Japan had won World War 2. Not being a book club book or being aware of anyone who had a copy I could borrow High Castle was the first book in a long time that I had gone out and bought for myself. Well I hadn’t actually gone out I clicked a button on a computer screen.

Did you know Dick is the guy who wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Aka Blade Runner)?

Do you know Total Recall and Minority Report are also based on novels by him?

Do you know the K stands for Kindred?

Just throwing in a little lunchtime trivia for you there.

Anyway I found it very confusing at first, it jumped around a lot and took a while to seem to fall into place. Something that I've noticed is I always struggle when foreign names are rife in a text. Be it French, Chinese, Russian, Italian you name i…

The Coffin Dancer Jeffery Deaver (Inbetweeny)

In return for leaving Too Good To Be True on the swop shelf of my hotel I picked up this one amongst the various Germany novels and rather bizarrely gardening books that were on offer.

I had watched the film The Bone Collector before but never read any of Deavers other novels.

I started this book on the balcony of my hotel room and finished it on the train to work having been able to squeeze it into the suitcase on the way home (well we had no toiletries to bring back with us so more suitcase room).

I really enjoyed it especially the endless twists and turns in the cat and mouse game that was Rhyme v Coffin Dancer. I liked the characters, the information about flying a plane, I even liked the Sachs/Rhyme twist.

The book slightly threw me when the Kall twist came to light (trying very hard to not give too much away) which perhaps was one twist too far but really enjoyable and a step above the usual American cop thriller novels. What's the next one?

Ann Cleeves - Too Good To Be True (A teeny weeny inbetweeny!)

So when your main criteria for packing a book to take on holiday is how thin it is you're not necessary expecting a masterpiece to accompany you to the sun lounger (ha who am I kidding with three children, I would be lucky to even see a sun lounger!)

Being the smallest book on my book shelf (page wise not size wise although that probably too unless you take into account the endless Mr Men stories) it was somewhat half-heartedly I packed Too Good to be True.

Cleeves is the author or Vera and Shetland the latters of which this book was a kind of spin off of. It was given to me by my Auntie who had received it free as part of the Quick Reads for 2016.

I enjoy watching Shetland, hadn’t read any Cleeves before so was interested to see what could be delivered in so few pages.

I'm struggling to think of anything to say other than 'yeah it was ok'. Cleeves did a good, neat job. A who dunnit with a clear beginning, middle and end coupled with a slightly dramatic near miss to…

Inbetweeny - Alan Sugar - What you see is what you get.

So what did I make of Lord Alan Sugars autobiography – What you see is what you get?

I enjoyed it. It was very detailed and genuinely written by him in his direct no nonsense style we are accustomed to in The Apprentice. I didn’t realise how much I didn’t know about him being an avid watcher of the Apprentice for quite a few years I had picked up about AMSTRAD and his electronics background but I had no idea in his involvement with Tottenham, his involvement with BSkyB and his involvement with Curry's.

He doesn’t hold back, friends, staff, family and celebrities all get a bashing. I was left thinking it would have been interesting to have read the headlines at the time and read the other guys (or girls) side of the story to get the overall picture of events, particularly in relation to the football and the several law suits (I am a lawyer after all) but he did seem to be fair in his criticism and reflection.

It was refreshing to read an autobiography – this was my first one in a …

Go Set A Watchman - Harper Lee

I first read To Kill A Mockingbird many years ago whilst at school. As it was a set text the obligatory pulling apart line by line was done complete with pencil notes in margin which is the kind of thing I love. Unlike some school texts (Far From the Madding Crowd, Macbeth) this one escaped my teenage loathing and I look back on it with fondness rather than with a shudder of exam stress.

We had clocked this book as soon as it came out but being price conscious (and carrying hardbacks on train adverse) decided to wait until it was out in paperback. I was surprised to note it was written in the 50s and had only been released very shortly before Lee's death. This made me suspicious as I was immediately dubious as to whether she wanted it released. Why wait so long? It didn’t stop me though and I approached it as you would meeting a long lost friend.

I initially enjoyed the train ride with Jean Louise and viewed the folding bed incident to similar trouble she would have gotten in to …

The Jewel of St Petersburg by Kate Furnivall

This is a prequel to excellent The Russian Concubine and if you haven't read it or its follow on The Concubines Secret please do. Oh and while you're at it read Under A Blood Red Sky as well, no Lydia or Valentina but still good.

It has been quite a few years since I had read either of the Concubine books yet Lydia had stayed with me over the years and I was looking forward to reading about how her mother and father got together.

I really enjoyed the book and found it gripping from the get go. What I loved the most about Concubine were the characters and I was delighted to find old faces pop up in this book, it felt like I was meeting old friends. I don't want to spoil things by giving too much away but the book was tinged with sadness for me. Having said that I did find it tense even though I knew whether certain characters were alive or not by the time Concubine starts. I loved the description of Russia and its descent into chaos, the love story, the villans and the des…

Inbetweeny - The Penguin Book of Classical Myths - Jenny March

I'm interested in history so was looking forward to reading this book – I actually picked it from the 30 plus unread books waiting for me on the bookshelf. My knowledge of Greek myths is/was very vague and I was keen on being to say to my children "ah yes Zeus, God of thunder do you know he …"

I realised pretty early on however that this wasn’t going to be the book that allowed me to do that and fell out of love with it once I realised the introduction was pretty much the theme for the rest of the book.

I didn’t like the way the book was presented – for example (sorry if this is a stupid question but having read 500 plus pages I still don't know) do some people actually believe this is how the world started? Virgil, Homer and all the other people she quoted, were they just waxing lyrical or is it them explaining what they believed to be a true account of how Athens came about or how a constellation came into being? This wasn’t made clear to the reader. Some sort of…

In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

It's not very often the words 'it's a generation thing' come from my lips. I'm lucky enough to still be of an age where 'it's a generation thing' usually refers to something/someone before my time and I am too young to remember. This month however I found myself saying those very words 'it's a generation thing' as the book was an adult version of the Point Horror books I used to read as a kid. When me and two of the other group members (both of similar age) commented on this, we were met with blank looks from the other slightly older members of the group. I did say slightly, please don't be offended!

For those of you who are slightly older (again slightly!) Point Horror was a series of very formulaic teen reads set in America where (a) A group of teens went off to camp/stay in a secluded house/break down in a remote area (b) someone injures themselves and is unable to move/the phone line is cut/they can't get a new brake disc until…

A Storm of Swords Part1: Steel and Snow by George R R Martin Aka Game of Thrones

Where do you start reviewing the epically popular Game of Thrones? This was part one of the third book that I decided to read as an inbetweeny before our Book of the Month, A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. Yes I know it was an epic ask given the fact it's about 600 pages but I read DDW in record time (pretty much 24 hours) so thought if I was going to squeeze this one in at any point this was it.

Series 6 is currently showing on TV so my timing was perfect to help me with placing the various names to faces. It actually helped my understanding of the current series as when Lord Beric suddenly appeared I was able to recount to my husband exactly what had gone on between him and the Hound as I had just read it.

I really enjoyed the book and surprised myself by how quickly I read it, so much that I actually got to start another inbetweeny! (The Penguin Book of Classical Myths by Jenny March but more on that in another post once read). I do think the watching and reading at same time he…

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

A literary version of Sliding Doors is the quickest way to sum this one up. But where Sliding Doors gave the impression of hope and happiness I found The Versions of Us to be filled with sadness and grief. The overall message seemed to be love never lasts, even if you are meant to be together it will end in sadness, you hurt the ones you love and even to some extent have a better career when you are apart. Whilst in the most basic sense - we all die - Barnett is correct I found it depressing to read.

I think I fell out with the book (well Jim and therefore the book) in version 1 when he cheated on Eva. I appreciate that a version of them doing nothing but living happily ever after would be boring however I was shocked when I read it and it really spoilt the book for me.

My favourite version was number 2. I thought everyone would have a favourite but most in the group didn't which surprised me. Whereas I didn't like the book for the overall message, most stumbled on the versio…

Annabel by Kathleen Winter #inbetweeny

Time for another quick inbetweeny book before our book of the month The Versions of Us. Annabel was given to me by my auntie who had really enjoyed it. Being about a hermaphrodite it was quite topical (I'm thinking about the whole Caitlyn Jenner transgender thing which I appreciate is a totally different issue but still made me think of it) despite it being released nearly 6 years ago.

Initially it was very interesting and I liked the slow paced descriptive tone. I really enjoyed the parts about Labrador and could have read more about it.

I felt the suffering of Jacinta and even Treadway and liked the supporting characters however I feel like the book started to taper off when Wayne decided to leave Labrador. It felt like wasted pages.

I also didn't get Wally and why she didn't speak to Wayne but then seemingly welcomed him with open arms years later. Tomasina was also a funny one - meddling then taking off to ramble before meddling again. My affection for Treadway grew…

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

I had never heard of this book. It’s a Swedish translation first released in the UK sometime last year. Apparently it made its way to Sainsburys last summer where someone in the group picked it up and as they had just started to read it last month put it forward as a suggestion. The pressure to choose a good book was great as we have had a couple of stinkers recently so the first page was read with as much tension as a Wimbledon Andy Murray final.

I clicked with this book immediately which quite a few of the group didn’t. It took them a few chapters to get into it and appreciate Ove and his ways. Someone mentioned that they found the writing style quite abrupt but I liked it as I felt it mirrored how Ove was – he wasn’t a man for putting spin on things or waxing lyrical about sunny mornings.

I guessed very very early on about his wife and as I was reading I thought I knew how it was going to end – he was going to die surrounded by all these friends that he had made along the way. I…

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith #inbetweeny

So time for another inbetweeny before my review of our book of the month A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman. This time I'd chosen to read Career of Evil by Robert (JK) Galbraith (Rowling).

I've read both previous Strike novels and whilst I loved the character's I was slightly dubious on Rowlings ability to write excellent crime novels. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed the books but had definitely read more edge of the seat stuff. This one came highly recommended and as I had enjoyed the other two I was looking forward to a change from the not so good books we had chosen at book club so far in 2016 (no pressure Ove!)

I really enjoyed it - I tried to write that all fancy but couldn't think of a better way to put it.

I loved the character's and think the story between Strike and Robin did move forward (although I do question how long the will they won't they can be kept going).I loved the journey round northern England/Scotland and the Royal Wedding a…

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Well I’m not sure what to make of the book and really unsure what score to give it. I haven’t read anything by Ishiguro before and avoided reviews or opinions about the book so really went into it blindfolded.

At first I found the book enjoyable and was very surprised when reference to ogres and dragons popped up. These are not words that historically have gone down well with our book club (read the review on The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett) so it was with interest I read on wondering how many of the group would fall away by chapter 5 and who would hate it on the spot as soon as the word pixie appeared on a page.

I found it very Tolkein-esque – the two main characters although human live underground in warren like rooms connected by passages. They set off on a long journey and end up embroiled in destroying a mysterious mist threatening all mankind.

The storey in itself was quite simplistic but I as a reader felt the whole time there was a hidden meaning, the characters mere…

The Unmumsy Mum by Sarah Turner

Another quick #inbetweeny for you before I review the book of the month for March. It’s The Buried Giant by the way and if you haven’t already started to read it yet there is still time. I’m only on page 5!

The Unmumsy Mum is my first experience of following a blogger right through to their first book being published and I was really excited to read it. Although maybe slightly worried that I would have read most of it before via the blog. This wasn’t the case - Ruth and fake tanned breast fed babies were nowhere in sight.

The book was really easy to read – nice short chapters (you can tell it’s been written by a mum right there) and made me laugh out loud on several occasions. I totally resonated with Turners true to life account of being a mum and recognised myself in so many pages. My only criticism would be that’s its very much a ‘you need to be experiencing it right now kind of book’. I’m not sure my mum would relate to references of baby sensory, Bubble Guppies and social media…

An inbetweener - The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

So I’ve been thinking one book a month equals only 12 posts a year (well 13 if you count the Big Review of the Year) which is good but I want to give you lovely people more reasons to come and read the blog. So I’ve decided to post about the books I read in-between the books of the months. These ones are read by only me and as at the moment I am reading The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry this seems like a good enough place to start.

It was a random Christmas present a couple of years ago that I re-found when stocking my new book shelves (Handmade by hubby - thank you!)
I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest I don’t think I would have bought it for myself and I simply wanted to get rid of all the ‘old’ new books I had that I didn’t expect to be staying on my bookshelves – only the best get to stay!

I read it after Hemmingway and although I didn’t race through it reading something with normal size print was a delight. It was also beautifully written with quotes scattered left rig…

For Whom The Bell Tolls Ernest Hemmingway

I was really interested to read this as I was still buzzing about Ernest Hemmingway from Mrs Hemmingway a book we reviewed last year. It was also set during the Spanish civil war and war stories always interest me.

I ended up buying the book on ebay as Amazon worked out more expensive than my usual budget and I certainly wasn’t going to find a book first published in 1941 from the best seller section in Sainsburys.

The book was old and the print was small but I wasn’t put off and set about reading it straightaway.

The language was difficult ‘I obscenity in the milk of your…’ being a particular phrase that the group had issue with. Characters were referred to as ‘the woman’, ‘the girl’, ‘the gypsy’ and I also found the use of Spanish throughout the book confusing. Yes I understand ‘hola’ and other basic words but odd phrases kept on appearing that I couldn’t translate without google and lets face it the average reader in the 1940s certainly didn’t have google nor had been to Spain s…

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

I hadn’t a clue what this book was about when I picked it up and came to it off the back of A Clash of Kings (Game of Thrones) so initially found its pace and central characters quite refreshing. It’s not plot lead which in theory appeals to me as I like that sort of book but whereas the first half of Revival by Stephen King drew me in and never let go this one left me cold.

I didn’t dislike the characters as often puts me off a book, I just didn’t empathise/warm to them. My main criticism is that I found the book really shallow. Many attempts were made at possibly opening the book up – Susans true parentage being revealed for example but were cast aside in a throw away sentence. I was screaming for Nora to just crack and give us something other than a serene smile or to get in Dennys head and find out what exactly was going on and what he got up to when he swanned off but the closest we got was a phone call right at the end of the book and Nora serving hamburgers instead of lasagne.…

BIG FAT REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2015!

It's that time again. A run down of all the books we have reviewed this year followed by the most eagerly anticipated Book of the Year award! Books are in chronological order starting from January 2015

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes awarded 9.5
I think with the exception of A Christmas Carol which was awarded a festive 10 out of 10 this has to be our highest scoring book EVER. Reading the review back now makes me want to re-read the book again. Its lowest score was 9 which never happens in our group so if you haven't read it yet DO IT NOW

Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins 7.3
Weak female characters resulting in us not really caring what happened, film rights have been sold and its very on trend. Most likely to have been read by your non reading friend.

The Martian by Andy Weir 7.18
I'm going to science the shit out of this planet! Best quote ever and even resulted in our first ever Film Review

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton 7.3
Set in Amsterdam where a dolls house given as …

A (delayed) Gift from Bob by James Bowen

Sorry Folks, Christmas got in the way and before I knew it 2016 had arrived before I had even looked at a computer. So finally after the last mince pie has been eaten, the decs taken down and the obligatory January salad for lunch has been eaten here is the review of A Gift from Bob our Christmas choice for 2015.

Let me start by saying this book was actually my suggestion. I had seen the first Bob novel in the shops a few years back and had always been interested to read it but never got round to it. When I noticed Bob had a Christmas book it seemed a no brainer to put it forward as our December pick (#oneruleofbookclub!)

It was met with mixed reactions when I suggested it leaving me in doubt as to how well it would go down. I was slightly puzzled as we had read books involving animals before and enjoyed them so maybe we just has one or two dog lovers in the group.

Turns out the book wasn't from the point of view of the cat but from his owner James (also the author, yes it's b…