9 Dec 2016

THE GREAT GATSBY

THE GREAT GATSBY by F. SCOTT FITZGERALD.

BACK COVER BLURB: Invited to an extravagantly lavish party in a Long Island mansion, Nick Carraway, a young bachelor who has just settled in the neighbouring cottage, is intrigued by the mysterious host, Jay Gatsby, a flamboyant but reserved self-made man with murky business interests and a shadowy past. As the two men strike up an unlikely friendship, details of Gatsby's impossible love for a married woman emerge, until events spiral into tragedy.

FIRST SENTENCE {1}: In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 30}: See 'My Thoughts' below. TT

SOURCE: Part of their Classics Collection, I received a copy of The Great Gatsby from Alma Books. 

MY THOUGHTS: A novel that has obviously survived the test of time as it were. For myself, left feeling uncultured at best, like a spectator faced with the emperor in his 'new clothes' at worst, I felt the novel to be one of  those that though I didn't particularly enjoy it (the best I can say about it is it was OK), I felt I should have at least appreciated as what is after all considered to be one of the great American classics.

Sumptuous in its descriptions. In many ways a perfect portrait of what comes to my mind (and I'm sure to that of many others) whenever I think of the 'jazz age' - the glitz, the glamour, the (sighs) romance, men like Tom Buchanan: charming, dapper and yet ....

A reader of crime fiction, I'm not exactly adverse when it comes to acts of violence but with the sentence (and I quote) ...

'Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand'

I found myself inexplicably distressed not so much by the turn of events as (and I'm hoping this makes sense) the way in which it was so nonchalantly written.  

Oh well, if nothing else I can now say, for better or worse, I've read The Great Gatsby.

6 Dec 2016

CHRISTMAS IN NEWCASTLE.

Dear Kelly and fellow members of the Arkansas Book Club, 


I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to be 'joining' you (albeit as I'm tucked up in bed here in the UK) as you enjoy your Christmas meeting.

Asked to share a Christmas memory, I've racked my brain.

Should I share the Christmas mornings of my childhood when, after opening presents with my parents and (naughty) little sister, we'd walk the short distance to my grandparents home where we'd have a breakfast of tinned hot dogs in buns eaten watching an episode of Flash Gordon before opening yet more presents?

Should I explain the tradition of pantomime?

Should I share some of my favourite Christmas reading?

Ah, I know.

A big part of my childhood, for me Christmas began with Fenwick's Christmas window which has featured everything from Father Christmas to this years Beatrix Potter theme by way of the notorious window featuring little green men.



Wishing you all a Merry Christmas. Enjoy a cookie for me as you share your Christmas stories.

3 Dec 2016

IT'S A 2016 BOOK CHALLENGES WRAP


Apologies for the variation in font size. A problem Iam unable to correct myself and the IT department (otherwise known as Mr T) has the week-end off. TT

Having now finished all three of the challenges I set out to complete this year I thought a joint wrap party was in order sooooo, in the order in which I finished the challenge, I bring you .... 

My thanks to Charlie over at The Worm Hole for not only arranging the What's In A Name? 2016 Challenge but also for being such a gracious host.

Whilst I always challenge myself that bit further with this challenge (I refuse to buy books that fit the categories, only using books I already have) I found myself challenged even further this year when I realised that our shelves only contained two books (hi-lighted in red) that made the criteria. But, Mr T dispatched to the local charity shops in search of suitable reading material - Something that turned out to be somewhat of a challenge on its own...
  • 'A book with a country' in the title ... 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith: Yet to find an Alexander McCall Smith book that was to my liking I was delighted that in this, '44 Scotland Street' (the fourth book read for the challenge) I discovered not only a McCall Smith read that I enjoyed but also what turned out to be one of my favourite reads of the challenge.
  • 'A book with an item of clothing' in the title' ... Roman Mask by Thomas M.D. Brooke: The third book read for the challenge. 'The Roman Mask' ... whilst a fictional story with a true event at its core is hardly anything new, I was impressed by the Roman war hero with what is obviously PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). 
  • 'A book with an item of furniture in the title' ... Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin: Book five and by far my favourite read of the challenge. Despite the fact that I'm not that big on Sci-fi  AND my promise to myself not to begin any more books that formed a series (unless its one already on my TBR pile OR I'm asked to review it) 'Game Of Thrones' (the first A Song Of Ice And Fire books) proved to be one series I simply have to continue with.' * 
  • 'A book with a profession in the title' ... The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse: A book began with some trepidation. I had read several of the author's books previously and hadn't particularly found them to my taste but a 'Gothic' novel surely I'd enjoy my second choice for the challenge, 'The Taxidermist's Daughter', but alas, atmospheric, macabre and with many of the components that should have made a good Gothic read (magpies, an asylum for the insane, etc), I found it lacking.
  • 'A book with a month of the year in the title' ... The Ides Of April by Lindsey Davis: An OK read but, with a female protagonist I didn't really buy into, ultimately I found the 'The Ides Of April' a rather disappointing sixth read.
  • 'A book with the word 'tree' in the title' ...   Tree And Leaf, Smith Of Wootton Major, The Homecoming Of Beorhtnoth by JRR Tolkien : Having searched the shops to no avail, it came to Mr T that we actually already had a suitable book for what was to become the first book read for the challenge already on the shelves. 'Tree And Leaf, Smith Of Wootton Major, The Homecoming Of Beorhtnoth' proved an interesting enough read though as you can imagine, given that it had three 'stories' within the one book, some aspects proved more so than others.
And so onto ....

Not even sure I had six books of 600+ pages on our shelves (and certainly not six I particularly wanted to re-read) or my TBR mountain, I would however like to thank the wonderful Kelly of Kelly's Thoughts & Ramblings for throwing the gauntlet down and asking me to join her in her Tome Challenge which saw me reading the following six books (the first three of which were read for at least one of the other challenges) or, put another way, 4,058 pages ...

  • Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (780 pages).
  • Shadowfall by James Clemens (672 pages) ... 'A book I had started to read several times before but hadn't made beyond the first few chapters and the rather graphically described rape of a young girl. I finished it this time on the recommendation of a friend who swore it got better.'
  • Roots by Alex Hayley (636 pages) ... ''A book I'd once have recommended as a read that 'told it how it was' (or as much as the original oral storytelling as supposedly passed down by Kunta Kinte allowed anyway). If asked now I'd say read it if you so desire but only as the work of fiction it has been proven to be.'
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (614 pages) ... 'Harsh of me perhaps but left feeling manipulated, I can't help but feel that rather than exploring events, the historical and political turmoil, through the eyes of the characters, the author had her own agenda and wasn't afraid to preach it.'
  • A Question Of Integrity by Susan Howatch (680 pages) ... 'One of those novels that if asked you'd have difficulty pinpointing just why you'd enjoyed it so much. Despite its many flaws oddly enough I thought A Question Of Integrity a compelling read that I found myself still reading well into the wee small hours.'
  • This Charming Man by Marian Keyes (676 pages) ... 'Characters I didn't care for, writing not to my taste. With its themes of addiction and domestic abuse darker, much darker, that I had expected. If this book had one redeeming feature it would have to be its mix of pathos and occasional humour.'

And at 550+ pages, the ones that almost made it ....
And last but by no means least ... 

The 2016 Reading Challenge which saw me read the following books (the books marked with an * having been read for at least one of the other challenges)...

  • (A book published this year) ... Redemption Song by Laura Wilkinson: 'A bit of a slow burner to begin with but, oh my goodness so, so well worth sticking with.'
  • (A book published the year you were born) ... * Tree And Leaf, Smith Of Wootton Major, The Homecoming Of Beorhtnoth by J.R.R Tolkien.
  • (A book you can finish in a day) ... The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket: 'Yes, older than the intended audience but by no means adverse to the reading of 'children's books'. I can normally at least put myself in the place of a child and recognise what it is they'd like in a book but alas in this instance I'm even struggling with that.'
  • (A book you've been meaning to read) ... Kitty Goes To War by Carrie Vaughn: 'With two strands to the story, it took for the two to combine before I was fully won over but, combined with the return of a favourite character of mine, won over I eventually was.'
  • (A book that was banned) ... Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: 'A book perhaps made notorious (and arguably the reason for its huge popularity) by it being included on the list of books to have been banned at one point or another. Whilst I shouldn't really compare the two, give me George Orwell any time.'
  • (A book that intimidated you) ... * Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.
  • (A book you own but have never read) ... The Taming Of The Queen by Philippa Gregory: 'Vibrant, regal, dramatic, shocking (Oh my goodness! The fate of Anne Askew who found herself on the rack) - the minutiae of the Tudor court is captured perfectly.'
  • (A book you previously abandoned) ... * Shadowfall by James Clemens.
  • (A book you've read at least once) ... * Roots by Alex Hayley.
  • (A book your partner recommended) ...The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett: 'Not entirely finished at the time of his death, there is a point in this book when both I and Mr T noticed a subtle shift in narrative. Nothing drastic or too obvious, for me at least, I couldn't always 'feel' the author (if that makes any kind of sense) in the words.'
  • (A book you should have read in school) ... The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck: 'Perhaps a novel read 'at the wrong time' in so much as read at another time I may well not have found it all so, well, relentlessly depressing, so totally unsparing in its oppression of women and horrific in its depiction of the horrors of life at this time in China's history.'
  • (A book recommended by your local librarian/ book seller) ... We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver: 'a pity that it came across that Ms Shriver herself cared little for her characters or their plight, seeming to rely on the shock factor.'

1 Dec 2016

(A GREGOR REINHERDT NOVEL #3): THE ASHES OF BERLIN.

THE ASHES OF BERLIN (Published in the US as The Divided City) by LUKE McCALLIN.

PRESS RELEASE BLURB: World War II is over, and former German intelligence officer Captain Gregor Reinherdt has returned to Berlin. He's about to find that bloodshed has not ended - and that for some, death is better than defeat.

A year after Germany's defeat, Reinhardt has been hired back onto Berlin s civilian police force. The city is divided among the victorious allied powers, but tensions are growing, and the police are riven by internal rivalries as factions within it jockey for power and influence with Berlin's new masters.

When a man is found slain in a broken-down tenement, Reinherdt embarks on a gruesome investigation. It seems a serial killer is on the loose, and matters only escalate when it's discovered that one of the victim's was the brother of a Nazi scientist.

Reinhardt's search for the truth takes him across the divided city and soon embroils him in a plot involving the Western Allies and the Soviets. And as he comes under the scrutiny of a group of Germans who want to continue the war – and faces an unwanted reminder from his own past – Reinhardt realises that this investigation could cost him everything as he pursues a killer who believes that all wrongs must be avenged... 

FIRST SENTENCE {Part One: How Happy the Dead; Chapter 1: Berlin, Early 1947: Monday}: Reinherdt had come to prefer the nights.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 38/39}: Reinherdt was plunged into darkness. He felt a moment of apprehension as the rubble seemed to come alive with sounds, small sounds, the whisper of little feet, a low snatch of words. Children they were, and he always wished more could be done for them - even if most of them wanted wanted nothing to do with people like him and this new world, and, really who could blame him for that - but they could be menacing on their own ground, very dangerous if they felt themselves provoked or threatened. 

SOURCE: A paper back copy received from Real Readers powered by nudge. Published by No Exit Press, The Ashes Of Berlin is not published until the 5th of December 2016.

MY THOUGHTS: Following on from Man From Berlin and The Pale House neither of which I've read. Though slowly revealed, eventually there was enough background information on Reinherdt to make me feel that I knew enough of him as a character and then, of course, a different case to be solved, meant that this worked well enough as a standalone read.

Most certainly not without his issues, a bit of an outsider, a lone wolf if you will - but then aren't all the best detectives? An ex-World War II intelligence officer (I'm reliably informed the first two books deal with his time spent in Intelligence) come police inspector (again) as mistrusted by his colleagues as he is mistrusting of them. In short, a highly engaging and readable character. 

Set in a country ravaged, its citizens impoverished, its children orphans, its newly re-formed police force vying for control of the streets. With most novels of this genre set in war torn Germany it was refreshing to read one set post-war.

Though with a plot I initially found rather meandering, it turned out there were twists and turns aplenty (if your anything like me the whodunit revelation will come as a surprise), the author doing an admirable job creating tension. My only criticism, slight as it might be. The narrative at times was what I thought of as stilted, some of the descriptions - 'a narrow lady', a man described as being 'all curves' whilst perfectly acceptable, unusual. Still, all in all, an enjoyable read that may well be worth a look should you be after a Police Procedural that is that bit different.