29 Jul 2016

THE OBJECT OF BEAUTY.

AN OBJECT OF BEAUTY by STEVE MARTIN.

BACK COVER BLURB: Lacey Yeager is beautiful, captivating, ambitious - and determined to conquer the exhilarating New York art scene. Groomed at Sotheby's, and hungry not only to climb the career ladder but also to infiltrate the city's social elite, Lacey charms men and women, old and young, rich  .... and even richer. Art prices are rocketing and Lacey inveigles her way to heart of the boom. But just as the art bubble looks set to burst, a secret from Lacey's own past threatens to detonate everything she has worked for ...

FIRST SENTENCE {Part 1: Chapter 1}: I am tired, so very tired of thinking about Lacey Yeager, yet I worry that unless I write her story down, and see it bound and tidy on my bookshelf, I will be unable to write about anything else.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 248}: "What was the Gober like?" Brooke asked.

"It's a kitchen sink," said Hinton.

"A what?" said Saul Nathanson.

"It's like a kitchen sink that hangs on a wall, but with an elongated back'" Flores told him. "Plaster and wood: it's an amazing piece."

Kip Stringer couldn't resist: "The sink is evocative of cleaning, but the fact it is on a wall, without plumbing, not functioning, creates cognitive dissonance. It embars the viewer from the action it implies." 

SOURCE: A Readers Group read.

MY THOUGHTS: The beauty of reading groups for me is that you get to read all manner of books that you may well not have ever considered. Something that sometimes pays off and other times doesn't .... alas in this instance I'm afraid this proved to be the latter.

I might well suggest that Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) not give up his day job but (a) that would be incredibly rude and (b) I'm informed that he is no stranger to the art world or, indeed, for that matter, having written two previous books (neither of them about art I hasten to add), the literary world.

Part novel but what I'd describe as more of a whose-who and whats-what in the art world. I'm hopeful that this might appeal to those with an interest in the art world but I'm afraid I struggled.

Seemingly predisposed to ramble without actually saying much, Mr Martin has an awful tendency to capture scenes in excruciating detail. Perhaps necessary if this were a film script but unnecessary here ... or so I felt.

Not too keen on Lacey as a main character but then arguably this should have been neither here nor there .... if hers was a well written character but like the others she was pretty much instantly forgettable.  

Disappointed and puzzled as to how little we actually came to know the narrator (supposedly Lacey's closest friend despite what seemed like her contempt for him ). I thought this very odd given the importance of his role come the end of the novel. 

Ultimately if nothing else I'd like to be able to say that I came away from the novel having learnt something of the art world but, a deadly dull read, I'm afraid I found myself, my attention wandering, unable to retain much of what I was reading.



27 Jul 2016

PROOF ~ THE NOVEL.

PROOF ~ THE NOVEL by TED D BERNER.

BACK COVER BLURB: A controversial verse in the Bible sparks college graduate student Ty Larson’s curiosity causing him to stumble onto the faint trace of an ancient advanced civilization that’s been all but lost to the sands of time

It soon becomes apparent that he’s not the only one with an interest in this long-lost civilization, but the others who share this interest and what their intentions are remain a mystery. Wading through legends and folklore, clues begin materializing that lead Ty down a bizarre path, uncovering the secrets of the massive stone structures scattered across the globe from the distant past. From the timeworn ruins in the high mountains of Bolivia and Peru to the colossal megaliths in Baalbek, Lebanon to the Great Pyramid itself, Ty unknowingly inches ever closer to unearthing the disturbing truth of the origins of mankind.

Although this novel is fiction, it’s based on fact, Biblical scripture, texts found in the Dead Sea scrolls omitted from the Bible, and many other stories from around the world that millions believe to be true.

Genesis 6:4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

FIRST SENTENCE {Chapter 1}: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." 

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 296}: "I know Selena, all of our asses are on the line if we go through with this thing. I've made two calls to the boss already, and there just isn't enough proof yet to convince him there's a need to act. Hell, I even told him what I really think is about to happen and judging by the long pause after ... well, lets just say I'll probably be taking some inkblot tests when I get back.

SOURCE: Received for review from the author.

MY THOUGHTS: Having decided to research a biblical verse for an end of semester paper strange things begin to happen to student Ty Larson as he delves deeper and deeper into the mystery of whether or not the Nephilin, the 'giants' of Genesis 6:4', actually existed. 

A novel that sucks you in, that has you longing to know more about the facts behind the fiction - always a positive sign as far as I'm concerned. I found myself thoroughly engrossed in the 'myths' that saw the pyramids and ancient monoliths all neatly connected with Nazi German in a tale that certainly had its fair share of twists and turns, to say nothing of its 'red herrings'.

Essentially a novel that may well appeal to those who enjoy conspiracy theories surrounding scripture as well as those with an interest in archaeology or indeed those just looking for an adventurous yarn. Just don't be taken in by the Dan Brown comparisons though as whilst Proof is what I thought of as a thinking man's Dan Brown type novel, Ty Larson is by no means a Robert Langdon.

Left feeling there is more to come, that not all was answered. I'm very hopeful of another instalment in what I feel could be a fascinating series.


25 Jul 2016

THE IDES OF APRIL (FLAVIA ALBIA MYSTERY #1).

THE IDES OF APRIL by LINDSEY DAVIS.

INNER FRONT COVER BLURB: Flavia Albia is the adopted daughter of a famous investigating family. In defiance of tradition, she lives alone on the colourful Aventine Hill, and battles out a solo career in a male-dominated world. As a woman and an outsider, Albia has special insight into the best, and worst, of life in ancient Rome.

A female client dies in mysterious circumstances. Albia investigates and discovers there have been many other strange deaths all over the city, yet she is warned off by the authorities. The vigils are incompetent. The local magistrate is otherwise engaged, organising the Games of Ceres, notorious for its ancient fox-burning ritual. Even Albia herself is preoccupied with a new love affair: Andronicus, an attractive archivist, offers all that a love-starved young widow can want, even though she knows better than to take him home to meet the parents...

As the festival progresses, her neighbourhood descends into mayhem and becomes the heartless killer's territory. While Albia and her allies search for him, he stalks them through familiar byways and brings murder ever closer to home.


FIRST SENTENCE {Rome, the Aventine Hill: March - April AD 89 ~ Chapter 1}: Lucius Bassus was three years old when his mother took her eyes off him and he ran out of the house to play.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 27}: I gave him my professional biography. I stressed the mundane side: chasing runaway adolescents for anxious parents, routine hunts for missing birth certificates or army discharge papers, or for missing heirs, or missing chickens that naughty neighbours had already cooked up in tarragon ...

SOURCE: Purchased by Mr T from a charity shop especially for this challenge.

MY THOUGHTS: I seem to remember reading something very similar by this author pre-Pen and Paper. Turns out it kind of proceeds her 'Falco' series, following Marcus Didius Falco's adopted daughter, Flavia Albia, who, now 28, has taken over daddy's business as a Private Investigator/Informer.

Set in Rome - I know this because I'm told this is the case, my problem being I somehow don't feel it - this, the first case in the Flavia Albia Mysteries, is based on similar known cases.

To sum my feelings up ...

I adored Albia as the feisty, 'modern' woman that she is - I just didn't necessarily buy into her as a Roman character. Loved her sarcastic humour which I seem to remember also set apart the Falco books. Alas its just a shame that it is her voice, this constant overly descriptive first-hand narrative, that tends to interrupt the flow of the story. 

Curious about the authors seemingly rabid dislike of men - or was it just lazy writing, her stereotyping the ancient Roman male? - her endless portrayal of them as (at best) incompetent boors or (at worst) sexual predators. 

Disappointingly I worked out who-dun-it early on thus the climax was, well, anti-climatic. 

Overall I think it fair to say that though an OK read I have read similar fiction (albeit not with a female protagonist) that was, shall we say, more to my taste.

Read for the What's In A Name? 2016 Challenge: A book with a month of the year' in it's title. This is the last book of six novels read for the challenge. CHALLENGE COMPLETED.


21 Jul 2016

MAURICE: A NEW BEGINNING.


MAURICE: A NEW BEGINNING by L.R.SPICKETT.

BACK COVER BLURB: The year is 1920 and whilst the war may be over, Maurice and his friends are fighting private battles of their own. L. R. Spickett continues where E. M. Forster left off in his original tale of forbidden love - Maurice'. In Maurice - A New Beginning' the recently heartbroken Maurice has been given another shot at love with the handsome but lower class Alec, but there are still hurdles to overcome - they face obstacles from family, friends, and society. Relationships are never easy and in a time when homosexuality was considered a criminal act they could be almost impossible. However, when a kindly couple step into their lives, things begin to look up and with determination and the support of friends, love looks set to win the day.

FIRST SENTENCE {Chapter One}: Penge, an estate inherited by Clive Durham from his father, is situated in the West Country not far from the sea.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 223}: As he moved across the meadow he talked aloud and determinedly to himself. There was no one else around to distract him or witness the new mood. "I am resolved," he said defiantly and appearing to address the sheep - the only other occupants of the field - "to take the horns of the beast and swing the blasted thing into an orbit of my own choosing for a change. Enough, by God, is enough," he said with renewed defiance, "and hell can have my soul if I deviate from this."

SOURCE: Received for review from the marketing coordinator of Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd. 

MY THOUGHTS: First things first, a confession ... I haven't read Maurice by E.M. Forster, the 'predecessor' of this novel by L.R. Spickett. Arguably not ideal and there are doubtlessly those who would say that in order to get the best out of Maurice: A New Beginning one ought to have read the original novel (or at least be familiar with it) and perhaps they are right. However thanks to a super little introduction by the author in which he gives a comprehensive run-down of the original story A New Beginning proved easy enough to follow.

What struck me first about this book was the style of writing. Capturing beautifully the social milieu of the period - of not only what it was to be homosexual at this time but, as seen through the eyes of Maurice's 'feminist' sister, the struggle for women's rights - the author does a terrific job in putting across the social nuances, of giving the impression that here was a novel actually written in the nineteen twenties, the period in which it is set.

Initially lacking in pace, I felt the plot a bit of a slow burner to begin with but as the novel progressed I found myself more and more engrossed in the lives of certain characters.

With the story of Maurice and his handsome lover, Alec, very much at the heart of the story I'd have expected that if I was going to fall in love with any of the characters it would be one (possibly both) of them. Instead of which I found myself captivated, not by Maurice's sister (and as regulars to Pen and Paper know I love a strong female lead), but by 'new' character, Robert. 

'Outed' to Maurice and his friends in a somewhat horrific manner, as his story unfolded I grew to like Robert more and more to the point that by the end of the book I found myself hoping that if ever L.R. Spickett were to write another book in the series it would feature more of his story both pre and post his meeting Maurice and co.




19 Jul 2016

THE TAMING OF THE QUEEN.

THE TAMING OF THE QUEEN by PHILIPPA GREGORY.

INNER FRONT COVER BLURB: Why would a woman marry a serial killer? 

Because she cannot refuse ...

Kateryn Parr, a thirty-year-old widow in a secret affair with a new lover, has no choice when a man old enough to be her father who has buried four wives - King Henry VIII - commands her to marry him.

Kateryn has no doubt about the danger she faces: the previous queen lasted sixteen months, the one before barely half a year. But Henry adores his new bride and Kateryn's trust in him grows as she unites the royal family, creates a radical study circle at the heart of the court, and rules the kingdom as Regent. 

But is this enough to keep her safe? A leader of religious reform and the first woman to publish in English, Kateryn stands out as an independent woman with a mind of her own. But she cannot save the Protestants, under threat for their faith, and Henry's dangerous gaze turns on her.The traditional churchmen and rivals for power accuse her of heresy - the punishment is death by fire and the king's name is on the warrant... 

FIRST SENTENCE {Hampton Court Palace, Spring 1543}: He stands before me, as broad as an ancient oak, his face like a full moon caught high in the topmost branches, the roles of creased flesh upturned with goodwill.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 37}: She gives me a reassuring nod as if to say that she is here, she is watching over me, her friends will report on what the king says in private, her husband will praise me to him. I am under the protection of my family, ranged against all the other families. They expect me to persuade the king to the reform of the church, and to gain them wealth and position, to find places and fees for their children.

SOURCE: Purchased from The Book People.

MY THOUGHTS: I hold my hands up to being contrary. Not normally adverse to reading a series out of sequence, Philippa Gregory's novels are an exception to the rule. Why I don't know as very often they are what I'd consider stand-alone novels albeit ones that often form a continuation of life at the court of one monarch or another - in this case  the story of Kateryn Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII.

Not having read the synopsis (I admit I just saw the name Philippa Gregory and instantly bought a copy) I was expecting The Taming Of The Queen to be the latest in her Cousin's War series and thus was somewhat unnerved to discover it did in fact belong to a much earlier series ('The Tudor Court' books). AND not only that but, not a book that fitted in at the end of that series, but, if the books were to be read chronologically (and not in order of publication), actually stood fifth in the series (with what was to be the second book yet to be published).*

Anyway, I digress.

OK, so as an author frequently accused of writing creative fantasy rather than historical fiction, its probably true that for those of us familiar with Kateryn Parr's story this novel might not have too much to offer as far as historical facts about Parr's life go but there is no getting away from the fact that Gregory has a tremendous way of bringing characters to life. For goodness sake, her portrayal of King Henry (and in particular his increasing ill health) found me with tears in my eyes on more than one occasion - no mean feat given his tyrannical nature.

All in all, despite her somewhat annoying habit of belabouring certain details aside, I thought The Taming Of The Queen saw the author back on form after what have been considered by many as some of her weakest works. 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. 

The Taming of The Queen was read for the 2016 Reading Challenge: 'Book You Own But Have Never Read' category.

* The Tudor Court Series in chronological order (First published dates according to Goodreads in brackets) ...
1. The Constant Princess (2005)
2. Three Sisters, Three Queens (to be published August 2016)
3. The Other Boleyn Girl (2001)
4. The Boleyn Inheritance (2006)
5. The Taming Of The Queen (2015)
6. The Queen's Fool (2003)
7. The Virgin's Lover (2004)
8. The Other Queen (2008)


16 Jul 2016

NATIONAL GEORDIE DAY.

Its the 16th of July, which can only mean one thing.

  • Yes, its the 197th day (the 198th day this being a leap year) according to the Gregorian calendar
  • Yes, all of these historical events happened July 16th
  • Yes, its only four days to Mr T's birthday
.... but that's not it. 

Today is ....

< NATIONAL GEORDIE DAY >

And to celebrate I'm not only going to be sharing these photographs of Newcastle at night but also the below photographs as snapped by Mr T.



< Approaching Mr T's work place >
 - November 2015



< Jesmond Dene >
- NewYear's Day, 2016


< St Mary's Chapel, Jesmond Dene >
- New Year's Day, 2016


< Newcastle Quayside (top), The Barrage as the Ouseburn meets the Tyne (bottom left), Where the Ouseburn meets the Tyne (bottom right) > 
- New Year's Day, 2016.

An finally, hows this fre a geordie accent?

Ah divvent knaa weor they foond this actor but he's why-aye ne Geordie.

Which according to this English To Geordie Translator translates as ...

And finally, how is this for a Geordie accent?

I don't know where they found this actor but he's certainly no Geordie.