July – The Psychology of Time Travel

Ooooh, it must be Sci-Fi month. This was not intentional at all, but it seems that we travelled into the realms of science fiction in July and for me, it was a refreshing change.

The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

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A book about time travel and psychology, I’m in! Throw in a murder mystery and a romance out of time and I am hooked. Yes, this book grabbed my attention right away and held it until I finished the story two days later.  Was it perfect? no, but it was fun and it had so many twists and turns that I wanted to unravel that I really enjoyed reading it. The good: It’s a female-led novel with some really strong characters, a romance out of time and a murder that seems impossible. The main characters are well developed and for the most part very likeable and lovely relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter. The bad: There are too many characters and no time to develop some of them fully. The story is complicated and though I read the book quickly and it was hard to follow at times, if I had read it over a month or two I suspect I would be totally lost.

At the book club meeting, one of the girls suggested that it was too short and could easily have been much longer, maybe even a trilogy. This would have given the author scope to develop some of the other characters and maybe the plot could’ve been less rushed and therefore less complicated. It is a great holiday read but beware, our copy did not fare well in the sun, the glue became brittle and pages started to fall out, so if possible keep it in the shade. I really liked this book and would definitely recommend it, scoring it 4* and the other members of the group gave it 3.5*.

The Word for World is Forest – Ursula K Le Guin

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A fascinating wee book which takes the reader far into the future to a time when humans have destroyed the earth and are now taking over the planet Athshe. The humans have enslaved the placid native Athsheans and are destroying vast areas of the forest cutting down the trees to send wood back to Earth (Terra). The alarm bells started immediately for me; have they learnt nothing from destroying the Earth? Can you just colonise a new planet and make the natives work for you? How do they know that these Athsheans are non-aggressive? I mean it seemed like a recipe for disaster before I had even read the first 10 pages.

I will give nothing else away, but I will say that although it didn’t change my life, I really enjoyed reading this book. The way Le Guin writes is beautiful even when the subject matter is ugly and the joy of this book is that you can read it in a day, so if you are dragged into the story, as I was, you don’t have to put it down. I did find it a little predictable at times and would’ve liked more in the way of character development but I guess that’s difficult in a novella. I gave this book 3* and the only other member of the group who read it gave it 4*, so it’s a definite yes from us.

Happy Reading!

Mel x

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April – The One

We had three books this month because it’s a holiday month and holidays mean more time to read, so I took ‘The One’ with me to Greece.

The One – John Marrs

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The blurb for this book really drew me in. It was a great idea for a novel; what if there is one person that is truly meant for you and what if you could find that person with a simple DNA test? Well yes, I want to read this book, sign me up! The book follows five people in their journeys to find ‘The One’ using the DNA test. You’d be crazy to think that these stories go well for each of the five right? Also, that would make for a very boring book; they met, the loved each other, everything was perfect… No, I wouldn’t want to read that book at all, the problem is the book I did read wasn’t great either.

The best thing about this book is that it was several stories in one and that made it easy to read. The problem was that without exception the stories were disappointing. They were predictable, utterly cringy or completely unbelievable. I spent most of my time shouting ‘please don’t go down that route…’ at the author and then rolling my eyes thinking ‘yeh, he did’. It is just naff.

I gave this book 1.5* for having a good concept, but the others in the group gave it between 2.5* and 4* and it has been very highly rated on Goodreads. This time I think you might just have to read it and let me know if you agree with me or not, as it may well be your kind of book.

The Old Man and The Sea – Ernest Hemmingway

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Sometimes I pick up classic books and as soon as I start to read I can see why they are so highly rated, not so with ‘The old man and the sea’ in fact I just don’t understand why it is even considered a classic. I read this book on the train to London with my daughter, she asked me what it was about and I said “a man is trying to catch a fish” half an hour later I looked at her and said, “he is still trying to catch a fish”. This book goes nowhere and although Hemmingway clearly writes well I was utterly bored by the story.

I did not read it looking for a deeper meaning than the obvious ‘Man needs to prove himself by catching a fish in spite of adversity’ and I’m glad I did not as Hemmingway himself said “There isn’t any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The sharks are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.”

Honestly, I would not recommend this book at all to anyone. I gave the book 1* and that was because of the style of writing, not the substance, the others gave the book a maximum 2*. The best thing I can say is that it only takes a couple of hours to read, so it’s not a huge waste of time if you fancy a book about a man and a fish.

The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan

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This was cute. Was it perfect? no, but it made me smile and it had some really sweet moments. Yes it is sentimental, and yes there are storylines that make you roll your eyes, but actually, it has a lot of heart and some great characters that are likeable. The relationship between Bomber and Eunice was lovely, and his despair over his sister’s writing was fun, but I think I fell for the book with the introduction of Sunshine, not only did she add to the story but she also humanised Laura and made her more than just a romantic heroine.

Yes, it is fluffy, it is at heart a romance novel, which is odd because I liked it and romance really isn’t my thing, but this book was easy to read and mostly happy. I may be overrating this book because it was much better than the others this month, but I would give it 3.5*. None of the other members of the group read this one, so maybe just trust me or you can check the reviews elsewhere before giving it a go, I don’t mind at all.

Happy Reading!
Mel x

August – Caraval

This was a long hot summer, but with three books to read this month lying around and melting has never been easier. Luckily my mint plant loved the sun more than I did, so a long cool mojito and couple of hours on the sofa with a book in my hand became the saviour of my summer.

Caraval – Stephanie Garber

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I had such high hopes…

Caraval promised magic and mystery with a touch of jeopardy, and it delivered very little. This New York Times bestseller soon began to irritate, with its blah story and weak heroine. I chose this book for the book club on the grounds that it was recommended as being in the same league as ‘The Night Circus’, which is a wonderful book. Caraval may well have been inspired by this book, or by one of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy worlds, but that is where any similarity ends.

I had not realised that it was young adult fiction, but that became clear quite quickly, as it is full of teen angst and fluffy nonsense. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to suggest that all teen fiction is fluffy shite, it’s not, and there are some YA books that are amongst my favourite reads ever (Holes and THUG for a start), but I can imagine teen girls going weak over Julian in a way that I never would.

The main characters are underdeveloped, the romantic interludes are tedious, and everything is over-described with an overuse of metaphors and similes. How somebody managed to use so many words to describe so little is beyond me, if you cut half of the content from this book, it might have stood a chance of being a nice little story. The most disappointing thing is that this magical world just didn’t have any magic for me (aside from one fairly interesting dress). We gave this book 2* and I think that was generous tbh. Do yourself a favour and read ‘The Night Circus’ instead.

The Invisible Man – H G Wells

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It was about time that we threw another classic in the mix and The Invisible Man, being short and easily squeezed into a stuffed suitcase fitted the bill perfectly. The Invisible Man doesn’t start slowly, it begins with an already invisible ‘stranger’ arriving at an Inn, heavily bandaged. As the story develops, we discover more about Griffin, who he is, and how he became invisible.

The story, another to explore the relationship between science and morality has a different take on this. Other books of this ilk tend to conclude that science and the power that comes with scientific discovery will lead to corrupt morals (Jekyll & Hyde), The Invisible Man turns this on its head. The story takes an already morally corrupt man and through science gives him the power to do as he pleases. Either way though, we come to the same conclusion; science in the wrong hands is dangerous

I will not give anything away here, it’s a short book and it does what it says on the tin. I rated the book 3* and everyone else at the meeting gave it 4*, so it’s definitely worth the few hours that it takes to read it.

The Vanishing Futurist – Charlotte Hobson

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Never judge a book by its cover! No, DO, sometimes, just sometimes it pays off. I would never have bought this book had I known the subject matter before I fell in love with the beautiful cover. A book based on the Russian revolution really wouldn’t have caught my attention, but I am so glad it did. The book started well and then drew me right in. I was not in the mood for reading when I started this book (yes it happens sometimes), and was just about to flip on Netflix and find something mindless to binge on. I picked up The Vanishing Futurist, in an attempt to avoid the last minute reading book club panic, and in three pages I was stuck firmly in the story.

Gerty is a lovely character, written well, with a great mix of strength and naivety. Leaving rural England as a young woman to work as a Governess for a wealthy family in Russia in 1914 took a great deal of strength. The changes in the country over the four years covered in the book are immense, and her life there is nothing like the life that she anticipated when she took the job in 1914. Life with the Kobelevs was comfortable, she was well fed, well paid and happily, miles away from the Mother with whom she had such a poor relationship. The journey that Gerty takes both physically and spiritually over her four years in Russia is a journey that would mould the rest of her life, though she chooses to tell it only when she reaches old age.

The mystery of Nikita Slavkin (The vanishing futurist), which is the story that Gerty sets out to tell her daughter was secondary for me, but I am really pleased with how it was wrapped up in the book. Gerty’s story is fascinating and gives a great insight into the beginnings of communism, and the ideals that gave birth to it. I loved this book for its story, it’s characters and it’s historical and political commentary, which I thought was hard hitting at times, but isn’t that the point? I don’t often share quotes in my blog posts, but this really hit home, it is as true when describing 2018 as it is in the historical context of the Russian revolution.

“If all that our imagination can summon up is some limp, apathetic, cynical vision of a world just like the one in which we now live, then frankly that’s all we deserve.”

I gave this book 4.5*, for enveloping me in a world of which I knew very little, and for keeping me on the edge of my seat. The rest of the group agreed, and we would all recommend the book.

Happy Reading!
Mel x

June – Eleanor Olyphant is completely fine.

June is otherwise known as the ‘month of chaos’ in education, so for me even finding time to read was a challenge. I did manage to read both books but found myself with fifty pages of Brave New World left to read with only hours to go before the meeting.

Eleanor Olyphant is completely fine – Gail Honeyman

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It was one of those books, you know, the one EVERYBODY is reading this year. Everywhere I went it was being recommended, the reviews were phenomenal, and there were posters up advertising it, in fact being unaware of this book would only be possible if you were living on a deserted Island or perhaps on the moon. This is usually enough to make me run a mile away from any book, but for some reason, this time I gave in to the hype and I put this on the book club list.

The first thing of note is that the cover refers to how ‘funny’ the book is. I did not find this book funny at all, in fact, I was nervous as I read it, I was concerned and worried about Eleanor pretty much permanently, and this did not give me the room to laugh. The way I felt whilst reading this book is a reflection of how well written it is, and how well written Eleanor is. I cared about this wonderful oddball, I wondered why she was so socially inept, and I wanted only lovely things for her. Eleanor’s romantic interest in the singer of a local band makes her seem like a teenager with a crush and had the effect of making me feel very protective of her.

It is apparent early in the book that the relationship between Eleanor and her mother is destructive, and that there is a story there that we are not quite privy to, but it does give a dark undertone to the story. As this relationship unfolds later in the story we begin to understand Eleanor more and how the past has shaped her. I loved this book, and could not put it down, in spite of having a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I watched Eleanor stumble through various difficult situations. I gave the book 4.5* and the rest of the group rated it between 4* and 5*, so yes, it did live up to the hype and I am very glad I read it.

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

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Brave New World is a Sci-fi classic and often appears on 50 or 100 books to read before you die lists. I would argue that it should be on a ’50 books to avoid for the rest of your life’ list. Having read 1984 with the group and enjoyed a fantastic discussion on how Orwell’s vision of the future is so remarkably visionary in many ways, I could not wait to discover Huxley’s take on the future.

This is a dystopian society, masquerading as a ‘perfect’ world. In their world happiness is fake, caused by being fed propaganda and drugs and never looking for new information or challenging the system. There are no books, and the information is limited. For us, happiness is found in family, in freedom, in being able to be different and being able to read books and think for and educate ourselves. Huxley’s world does not represent happiness, it merely shows how easily people can be made to conform and believe that they are happy. It is a dark take on the future and could have been fascinating, but it was not, it was just a bit dull and depressing.

It was the conditioning that was closest to life in our world. For the BNWers information  (a forced agenda) is repeated while they sleep, for us, it’s in social media and the gutter press. If you hear something enough more often than not you will start to believe it! 1984 is definitely a much better book, it is written well, and is so terrifyingly similar in so many ways to our world that it shocked me. Brave New World was more sci-fi alternate reality and not very well written. It had some interesting ideas but failed to capture my attention. I also didn’t care about any of the characters, they could’ve all died for all I cared.

I gave Brave New World 2* and the group mostly gave it between 1* and 2* with only one member of the book club enjoying the read. Personally, I’d suggest you read or re-read 1984 rather than waste your time on this one, however, it’s a free world, so read it if you want to, just don’t say I didn’t warn you! 😉

Happy Reading!

Mel x

April – Days Without End

Having two weeks off in April is enough to make you wish that the days didn’t end, they did though, and back to work I went. while I was off I read the two books for this month, and a couple of others, this made me long for the summer, when I can really get my read on (hopefully in the garden, with a cool G&T in my hand).

Days without end – Sebastian Barry

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To begin with, I have to acknowledge that this is not a book that I would have chosen to read, I am not really a fan of historical fiction, nor do I enjoy books or films that involve war, but I gave it a chance. It is the 1850s, and Thomas has arrived in Missouri by way of Quebec, a journey that is revealed only in snippets that lightly inflect the novel, such as his brief explanation of the aptitude he and those like him show for soldiery.

Having teamed up with a boy named John Cole, he becomes a dancer, rigged out in women’s clothing to entertain miners starved of female company; a so-called “prairie fairy”. In working as a ‘girl’ Thomas realises that he is, in fact, happy this way, and often reverts to dressing as a woman. Given the time when this was set, I was surprised that nobody tried to take advantage of him (her) and then go crazy when they discovered it was a man, for me, it just didn’t ring true.

The book was incredibly disappointing,  I thought it was going to tackle the issue of being Gay or Trans in the 1800s and that it would go into the challenges of coming to terms with your own sexuality in an unaccepting society. The majority of the book is about civil war, fighting, killing and the battle between the native Americans and the white Americans. I am not overly keen on American history, and I am even less keen on war and war-related stories, and in this book, there are pages and pages of it.

There are inconsistencies, not least at the end which I will not give away because some of you might want to read it. Personally, I’d rather spend my time doing almost anything else (even housework), it felt like the book without end. So my advice would be don’t bother, and I rated the book 1.5* for the bits when the boys were working as showgirls, which could have been the basis of a really interesting story. The rest of the group gave the book between 1* and 3.5*, so not a total flop, but you know, there are many other better books out there.

Sleeping Giants – Sylvian Neuvel

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Sleeping Giants was a welcome distraction after the hard work involved in reading days without end, and a change of genre was just what I needed. The story is told by way of case files, transcripts, diary entries, and other documents; the novel covers four years, beginning with a prologue set when Rose (one of the main characters) is 11 years old. The style worked really well for this book, it made a welcome change from the first-person narrative.

The book begins when an 11-year-old Rose falls into a huge hole and finds a giant robot hand and follows the story of the giant; Where is the rest of it? What is it? Where did it come from? Some of these questions are answered in the book, others are conveniently left unanswered to lure the reader into reading ‘Waking Gods’ book 2 in the series. The story is reminiscent of ‘The Iron Giant’, but in my opinion not nearly as good. The story quickly fasts forward 17 years and we see an adult Rose working as a physicist, in charge of investigating the composition of the hand that she landed in as a child.

The team tasked with finding the other parts of the giant soon begin to unearth the other pieces all over the globe. This raises issues with international relations and there are the political ramifications of removing items from foreign soil to deal with. Who owns the giant? How can it be kept in one country, when it came from many? I do not want to spoil the story of this giant, so am loathe to go into detail about all of the issues that it causes. It is not as clever as it could have been, the author writes a mystery interviewer into the story to cause suspense, but I found this lacking, as I would have preferred a well-developed character with a twisted agenda. I found this book readable, it would be accessible to young readers, and easy enough to get into for a holiday read, but at no point was I tempted to buy book 2, which speaks volumes.

I gave Sleeping Giants 3.5* which I suspect was over-generous, based on the fact that it was not ‘Days Without End’. The rest of the group rated it between 1* and 4* so for ‘Sleeping Giants’ it is very much a matter of taste. If you like Sci-Fi and want an easy read, give it a go, if you want something with depth, skip this and grab a copy of ‘The Iron Giant’ instead.

Happy Reading!

Mel x

February – The Power

This highly rated, much raved about book was sure to hit our book club list at some point. I knew nothing about it, apart from the buzz (yeh sorry) about it being some great feminist instant modern classic. I had assumed that it was about Women finding their inner power, and ensuring that female persecution was a thing of the past. I expected a very deep, thought-provoking book, with some wonderful insight that would leave me with a book hangover for days, after all even Barack Obama listed it as one of the best books he read in 2017.

The Power – Naomi Alderman

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I thought it was a reasonably good concept, with the potential to address the issues of a patriarchal society with some element of wisdom. It was badly written, lacked the guts of a real storyline and basically teaches ‘yeh but if women held the balance of power, they’d be bastards too’. The only character that was developed properly was Tunde, and I felt that I understood him, and his motivation. Tunde’s character changed radically throughout the story, as and when things changed for him, in terms of his freedom and safety. I felt there was a huge hole in Allie’s story, as the situation with her foster Mum was never addressed when she dealt with her tormentor. I did get to the point where, if I read the work ‘skein’ again I was in danger of destroying the book, mostly I was just totally bored and couldn’t wait to finish it, but I did, so I’m proud of that.

I was really excited about reading this book, and then, urgh. Utter claptrap… I know that this is unlikely to be a popular opinion, but I really struggled to find a reason to keep going with this book. In the end, it was the fact that it was a book club book that made me plough through the dirge, that and the hope that there would be something (Come on the has to be SOMETHING) worth holding on for… for me, there was not! The book group seemed to agree on the fact that the story was confusing, even at the meeting some thought that the story was one thing, and some another. The ratings ranged from 1.5* (me) to 4.5* (Steph) and pretty much every rating in between, with nobody agreeing. I don’t know if this is a good thing, but it reminded me never to judge a book on behalf of somebody else.

The strange case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson

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The strange case of Dr Jekll and Mr Hyde is so well known, and so often mentioned in everyday life, that I felt that I already knew the story. I have never read the book, and I did not even know that it was only a short story, but I loved it. The story is so beautifully written, that the 55 pages gave us plenty to discuss. In contrast to ‘The Power’, the characters in this short book were very well developed. Robert Louis Stevenson’s ability to engage his audience so quickly means that none of the prose is wasted, there is no need for long meandering descriptions. We get it, and we buy into it long before there is any reason to believe that Jekyll has something to hide.

I absolutely loved this story, I did not feel sympathy for Jekyll, but I did understand how a scientist would get so tied up in an idea, that they might cross a line, and descend into chaos. The moral dilemma; if you could, without recriminations do whatever your dark half wanted to do, would you? is a fascinating one, and I believe that many would. The end of the book shows the consequences of 1) letting go of your morals/ethics, and 2) messing with science, both of which could do with being taught more readily in my opinion. I gave the book 4.5*, as did Alex, and the others have all gone off to read it. A great wee, thought-provoking story, that can be read in an hour, what’s not to love?

Happy Reading!

Mel xx

 

January – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I remember my Mum watching ‘Hitchhiker’s’ on TV when I was quite young, it was big, everyone knew about the book, the TV show and the Radio play version. Quotes from the book were part of my growing up, I KNEW that the meaning of life, the universe and everything was 42, people often said ‘so long and thanks for all the fish’, and I KNEW that Marvin was a paranoid android, but I never read the book until now….

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

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The book started well; the bit on Earth was witty, and I had high hopes. I loved the way that Ford Prefect manipulated those around him, without seeming to be manipulative, or smarmy, he just knew how to achieve his desired outcome. This is seen early on in the story when the builder is trying to destroy Arthur’s home, and Ford has an unusual request. There are things that I liked about the book, it was easy to read and the characters, although not fully developed in this book are at least interesting. I loved the justification for ensuring that you pack a towel above all else when hitchhiking through the Galaxy, and I loved how resilient Arthur was given the circumstances.

Overall, I was disappointed! I remember it, I never read it, never heard it, never saw it, but it was there, pretty much all my life. I remember the names Arthur Dent and Trillion because it was HUGE, MASSIVE, everyone knew it, everyone quoted from it, it just was! SO I was sure I’d love it… I didn’t, it was okay, but not okay enough for me to want to read on! It did not live up to my expectations, and that makes me sad! I gave the book 3* and the rest of the group gave it an average of 4*, which makes it worth reading if you’re looking for something light-hearted and humorous.

Brighton Rock – Graham Greene

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Brighton Rock is a book that I first read when I was just 17 years old, at the time I loved it, I raved about it, I told everyone to read it, I have not read it since. I was a little concerned that it would not live up to my own hype, but it was only the 2nd book, so it’s not like I was forcing people to read it. I do remember it being pretty dark and that Pinky’s character was really well written, and I have read other Graham Greene books, and I know that he is pretty good at creating tension. I thought I remembered the end but was unsure whether I was misremembering, and worried that it wouldn’t be as powerful as I thought it was.

As soon as I started reading this book again, I was hooked. I love how well the characters are written, Ida is a force to be reckoned with. I love that the book has strong, female leads, as well as the obviously strong male gang members. I believe that Ida is inherently good, yes, of course, she is on a little adventure, but it is fueled by the need to uncover the truth. Something happened to someone that she connected with, however briefly, and she wants to make sure that justice is served, and that makes her morally superior to the other characters.

Brighton Rock is not a light read, it is gritty, it is dark and it is brilliant. I still love this book, I gave it 4.5* and was yet again blown away by the ending (no spoilers). The rest of the group rated it between 3.5* and 4*, and I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but it is definitely a beautifully written and emotive book.

Happy Reading!

Mel x

November – Time and Again

So apparently, Pantomime season is crazy busy when you work in theatre production, who knew? This being my first chance to catch up with my old friend WordPress in two months, means that I may well bombard you all with two blog posts at once. That said, if nothing else it will take double the time to read, giving you the perfect opportunity to whack the kettle on and chill for 10 blissful (if somewhat filled with the ramblings of a bookish woman with far too much of an opinion on everything) minutes. HAPPY NEW YEAR by the way..

Time and Again – Jack Finney

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I have wanted to read this book for years. I cannot remember exactly how long, but I read a quote in the back of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 (A very ‘hard to put down’ book, if you can lift it at all in the first place), that suggested that this was the ultimate in time travel novels. Jack Finney writes beautifully, describing the New York of 1882 in such a way that you can easily lose yourself in the city sights and sounds. Some of the group thought the descriptions of past New York were laboured, but I did not find this at all, and for me, this was the beauty of the book.

Let’s come back to the more recent past, to be precise, to 1970. The book was written in 1970 and was set in the present day, so modern New York in the novel is, from our perspective almost half a century out of date. To look at it another way, the twin towers of the world trade center opened in 1970 and 1971 respectively, so they were just being built when the ‘present day’ part of the book is set. For the reader, who has travelled to New York recently, this gives us three New Yorks to consider, the one we know, the one that is developing into our modern New York, and a whole other place, where Central Park is home to many farmers, and few of the buildings we now know and love even exist.

Simon Morley, our main protagonist, is going about his daily business, happily in a new and blossoming relationship, when he is approached by Ruben Prien to take part in a secret government project. He agrees to take part and goes with Ruben to a huge warehouse where the project and its secrets unfold. I doubt I am spoiling anything by telling you that the secret project is time travel (if this revelation has shocked you to the very core I apologise, and respectfully suggest that you read the rest of the post again). So in an attempt to be part of something fabulous, and secret (and who doesn’t like to be part of something secret), and to curry favour with the new woman in his life, Si sets off on a time travel adventure.

The book is the story of a changing city, mixed gently with romance, mystery and intrigue. The writing is lovely, and the story kept my attention, but, it did not blow me away, in fact, it was a little disappointing. I LOVED 11/22/63 and when Stephen King said that he was inspired by Time and Again, I thought it would be mind-blowingly good. It was good, it rolled along, but there were issues, there were little things that irked and the premise wasn’t strong enough to overcome these in my opinion. I gave it 3* and this was also the average rating from the group.

Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin

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Giovanni’s Room is a short novel, but boy does it pack a punch. The story was written in 1956, a long long time before being gay or bisexual was in any way considered acceptable, let alone natural (yeh I know there are still many places where it’s not). The story centres around David, a young American man, who has moved to Paris to explore his sexuality.

David is Gay (or bisexual if you consider that he is engaged to and sexually active with a woman) but has locked those feelings away for years, his one time encounter with a male friend in his youth remains his dirty little secret. In Paris, David meets and falls for Giovanni, an Italian waiter in a gay bar (yes in Paris they existed). With his fiance away, David embarks on a relationship with Giovanni behind closed doors, and all the time fighting his sexuality.

The book is dark, the closet is a very dark place, and what becomes obvious throughout the book is that when you pretend to be something that you are not, people get hurt. Giovanni’s story is as heartbreaking as David’s, and I found myself being thankful that I live in a (mostly) more enlightened age, and in a progressive society. I surround myself with people who encourage freedom of expression, sexuality, speech etc, and find it unthinkable that anyone should hide who they are, and this book illustrates clearly why freedom and acceptance are so very important. I gave the book 4* and the rest of the group gave it an average of 3.5*.

Happy reading

Mel xx

June – Flowers for Algernon

The sun is shining and I can’t wait to get some serious Summer reading done. This month’s meeting was the smallest ever, with only three of us, but we had plenty to talk about, and a cool G&T so all is good. The two books that we read this month both pose a ‘What if….’ question FFA asks ‘What if we could make people more intelligent?’ and TFPCFH asks ‘What if we could talk to our dead loved ones?’ both very thought provoking.

In other news, I launched a Facebook version of our book club. With 30+ members already signed up on the first day, it looks like a winner! Members will read the same book as we do and discuss these in a virtual event at the same time as we have our meeting, I am really excited to be able to allow friends who don’t live close by to join Turn the page, and hope that it will keep growing.

Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes

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Flowers for Algernon is a modern classic, it appears on a couple of the 50 books to read before you die lists, yet so many people (Bookish included) that I  know have never read it. The first thing I need to say about this book is “GO AND READ IT!” and I mean that wholeheartedly, it is an absolutely astounding book. Algernon is a mouse, the subject of a test operation to see if scientists could improve intelligence with breakthrough surgery.

Algernon becomes really intelligent after the operation, so Dr Neymur chooses Charlie to be the first human to undergo the same surgery. Charlie has a very low IQ and does not really understand the world around him, but he does know that he wants to be smart. This book is beautifully written from Charlie’s perspective, so we see first hand the results of the operation, and we see when all is not well.

Flowers for Algernon is a book that everyone should read, immediately after our meeting I passed it to my daughter, who is 17 and now absolutely captured by it. It is not an easy read, as it is very deep, a little dark and more than a little sad, but for me it is every bit as much a must read as ‘Of mice and men’, ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest’ or ‘To kill a mocking bird’. At the meeting, the three of us gave the book 4.5* & 5*.

Basically, if you do not read this book, you are really missing something wonderful.

The first phone call from heaven – Mitch Albom

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From the author of ‘the five people you meet in heaven’, our second book this month was promising. I loved ‘the five people..’, so much so that I recommended it to everyone I knew, and I have to say, it doesn’t compare, the writing is inferior, as is the plot, so I am going to complete this review without comparing the two again. I was intrigued by the idea of the dead calling the living, it was an interesting concept, but it played out pretty slowly.

People in a small town in America start receiving phone calls from their dead loved ones.  The whole town is thrown into chaos, and we watch as some fully accept and believe this phenomenon, some blame the network provider and others remain sceptical. It is an interesting concept, but really not particularly well written and a little predictable. We gave the book 3* which was probably generous, it wasn’t awful, but I wouldn’t recommend it to a friend.

Happy Reading

Mel x