A Busman’s Holiday …

The Maintenance of Headwayby Magnus Mills

I’ve read and loved three of Mills’s previous novels – especially All Quiet on the Orient Express, (review here).  They’re deadpan, full of black humour, and expound upon the trials and tribulations of the ordinary working man.   He’s dealt with fence installers, odd jobbers, and White Van Man; in The Maintenance of Headway he tackles bus drivers.  Mills, of course, is famous for having been a bus driver for a while, so surely he could nail his former profession?

The answer is yes, but.  Yes, life in this bus garage feels horribly real. But, it’s rather boring.  There’s only so much you can say about a particular bus route and the bus drivers that travel it, which is probably why this book is a short one.  As for the subject of the title – the fabled rather totalitarian ideal of all buses running on time and at the appropriate gaps – time-keeping is rather a dry concern.  However, I don’t remember a single instance in this story about a driver actually running on time, they prefer to run early and never late if they can help it.

That’s not to say the book is without humour, and, like Blakey in the old 1970s TV comedy On the Buses, most of the laughs are at the bus inspectors’ expense, especially when the drivers are discussing them at tea-time….

‘What Breslin attempted this morning was a form of alchemy,’ he continued. ‘If he’d have left the buses to sort themselves out they’d most probably have been back in the desired sequence after a couple of hours. Instead he tried to dispel chaos at a stroke, and as usual nobody gained. The fact is it’s almost impossible to run a proper bus service in this city. The forces ranged against you are just too numerous. I know there are cities on the continent where buses are a byword for efficiency, and people wonder why it can’t happen here. But those places are bland and featureless. Mostly they’ve been bombed flat and rebuilt from scratch; the roads are spacious and the populations obedient, rational and unselfish. Buses sweep along keeping exactly to schedule, punctual at every point from start to finish. In this city it’s different. The streets are higgledy-piggledy and narrow; there are countless quares and circuses, zebra crossings and pelicans. Go east from the arch and you’ve got twenty-three sets of traffic lights in a row. All those shops, and all those pedestrians pouring into the road. Then there are the daily incidentals: street markets, burst water mains, leaking gas pipes, diesel spillages, resurfacing works, ad hoc refuse collections, broken-down vehicles, troops on horseback, guards being changed, protest marches, royal cavalcades and presidential motorcades. Shall I go on?’

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this book, just not as much as the others of his I’ve read. It all seemed too real, lacking the surreal bite and sense of danger present in The Restraint of Beasts or All Quiet on the Orient Express. Maybe it was a little too much of a busman’s holiday. (6.5/10)

I am looking forward to his new novel though, A cruel bird came to the next and looked in, which sounds like a return to the surreal and is also set in a fictional empire which suggests Gulliver meets Gormenghast to me – can’t wait!

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I bought my copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, click below:
The Maintenance of Headway Bloomsbury pbk, 160 pages.
A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked in


Cold war secrets the spooks can’t hide …

The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming

We know about the Cambridge Five – Philby, Burgess, Maclean, Cairncross and Blunt. What if there had been a sixth man in this spy ring?  What if that sixth man wanted to tell his story? What if his story could cause shame not just to the Russians but the British government as well? These are the questions that Charles Cumming’s exciting spy thriller seeks to answer.

Respected academic Sam Gaddis is in debt, badly. The advance for a new book would do the trick – but what can Sam, an expert on the Cold War and Russian secret service, has no idea for a new angle though. Then his best friend, journalist Charlotte Berg invites him to co-write a book with her – she has a scoop in the offing, she’ll tell him more later. But before they can get together to start thinking about the book, Charlotte dies. Was it murder? (Of course it was, but Sam doesn’t know that at first).

Sam starts to investigate from Charlotte’s papers, and before he knows it, he’s drawn into a deep web of intrigue that put him in danger. As he pieces information together, the plot takes us from London to Winchester before heading off all around Europe.  Gaddis may be a expert historian, but he is an amateur spy.  He is lucky though, and without always knowing, he manages to stay one step ahead of those who want his investigation closed down.

This is a complex story of cross and double cross in which you have to keep your wits about you. The pace doesn’t let up either, and the action easily matches the detective work to give a good balance.  Modern spycraft is well to the fore which always makes for interesting reading and was reassuringly not as over the top as in Spooks, (which I do adore).  Cumming is being rated as a successor to Le Carré, and you know, they may just be right – and I don’t mind having to read more to see if I really agree.  (8.5/10)

See also Elaine thought of it at Random Jottings.

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My copy was supplied by Amazon Vine. To explore further on Amazon UK, click below:
The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming. Harper pbk Sept 11, 416 pages.

War & Peace – without much peace, but with added Vampires…

It’s that time of year again when I like to pepper my reading with a bit of blood and gore and undead creatures.  I won’t be reading all vampires and zombies – the plan is to alternate roughly, so do come back later if the undead are not your thang!

My first book in the Transworld Book Group challenge however fits the bill perfectly to kick off Gaskella’s new … Duh-duh-daaah!…

Twelve (Danilov Quintet 1) by Jasper Kent.

I have read War and Peace, so I know a little bit about Napoleon v. General Kutozsov, the Battle of Borodino and Napoleon’s march on Moscow, and I’m sure we all know that Napoleon had to retreat and Tchaikovsky wrote the 1812 overture to commemorate it.

This military setting forms the backbone of this novel as we follow the exploits of Captain Alexei Ivanovich Danilov and his small band of officer comrades.  They work as a kind of elite force, spying on the French and using guerilla tactics to keep one step ahead. It’s hard work though – Alexei lost two fingers when he was captured in a previous campaign.

It’s not going well for the Russians, and Dmitry, nominally in charge of Alexei’s group, has taken matters into his own hands. He has engaged a band of mercenaries whom he met in the Balkans to help. He explains that they’re like the monks the Tsar once had as a bodyguard – the ‘Oprichniki’. The Balkans will act as a guerilla force to pick off a few French soldiers here and there and generally sow fear amongst them.  Dmitry explains …

‘They enjoy their work. Like any army, they live off the vanquished.’ None of us quite followed Dmitry’s meaning. ‘The spoils of war. Armies live off the gold and the food and whatever other plunder they take from the enemy.’
‘I’m not sure they’ll find enough gold with the French army to make their journey worthwhile,’ I said.
‘There are rewards other than gold,’ said Dmitry with an uncharacteristic lack of materialism. ‘They are experts at taking what the rest of us would ignore.’

They are a scary band of chaps, and they certainly go to work with relish – but then they would be, the Oprichniki are vampires.  It’s obvious from the start to us the reader what they are, but it takes Alexei some time to cotton on, and then he becomes a man with a rather different mission.

Meanwhile, in between bouts of spying on the French and haring around the place trying to catch up with his fellow officers, Alexei hangs around Moscow, where he acquires a mistress – a posh prostitute called Domnikiia. Alexei’s wife and young son remain in Petersburg – he feels little guilt though, and continued encounters with the Oprichniki give him no time to consider his position.

Then, of course, there’s a third element after the French and vampires to do battle with – the weather.  It’s winter, and a foodless, occupied Moscow is no place to hang out for humans – the vampires do OK though!

At the beginning of this book, I had wondered whether the military setting would overshadow the rest of the story, which was something I found slightly with The Officer’s Prey – a Napoleonic military detective story by Armand Cabasson I read a couple of years ago.  Twelve though, with its domestic sections in Moscow, came alive in a less soldierly fashion.

Although this book was rather long at 539 pages, and took a little while to get into, I did enjoy it.   It does have a high gore and violence count, but these vampires are the real thing – proper nasty blood-drinking, flesh-rending, sunshine hating, superhuman monsters from the borders of Europe and Asia.   Twelve in the first in a planned quintet of novels – would I read another?  Next vampire season certainly!  (7.5/10)

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My copy was supplied by the publisher, Transworld – thank you.
To explore further on Amazon UK, click below:
Twelve (Danilov Quintet 1)by Jasper Kent – paperback 539 pages
Thirteen Years Later (Danilov Quintet 2)
The Third Section (Danilov Quintet 3)
War and Peace (Vintage Classics) by Leo Tolstoy
The Officer’s Prey: The Napoleonic Murders by Armand Cabasson.

Gaskella is Three! Help me celebrate with a giveaway…

Those who know me well would say that I’m very good at starting things, but not so good at keeping them going or finishing them.  I have huge initial bursts of enthusiasm until the thrill wears off and then I procrastinate. My blog, however, is an exception to the rule, as my love of writing it has not waned at all, staying rock steady and surviving all attempts to derail it when modern life outside the blogosphere intervenes.  It is a haven, somewhere where I go to share thoughts with some wonderful friends, to make new ones too; a community of like-minded souls. Little did I think when I started, that I’d still have the same commitment to it, and today Gaskella is three years old!

Since starting Gaskella, I find I get much more out of reading – how I read has changed. I think about what I’m reading a lot more, especially reflecting on a book after I’ve finished it.  I’ve always read and read and read, but adding a veneer of analysis to the experience heightens the pure enjoyment of reading, which I didn’t expect to be honest.  I read a wider range of titles than ever before in fiction; although I admit that non-fiction books continue to be an occasional diversion rather than regular feature.

I also want to thank everyone who pops by to visit my blog, everyone who comments, and especially all the wonderful blogging friends I’ve made. THANK YOU!

To celebrate, I’m going to give away three books – one of my books of the year, for each year of my blog (links to my reviews).  

To take part in the draw, leave a comment and tell me what is the best book you’ve read so far this year?

The giveaway is open to any country where the Book Depository can send free. (Click here for the list of countries).  

The books are:

Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick.

This was possibly the best book I read in 2009.  It’s a fictionalisation of the true story of Arthur Ransome’s time in Russia at the time of the Revolution, by one of the best YA authors there is!  Blending Russian folklore with adventure, spying and romance, I think it probably has more adult appeal than YA.

Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

This book, which I read last year, was a revelation, and not what I expected at all.  It was the novel that set the benchmark for all the dramas and soaps of small town America that followed, and was published in 1956.  The writing is fantastic, and it’s gritty, full of big themes –  and everyone has a secret. We read it in our book group to universal approval.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick De Witt

I feel very smug about this one! I read and was blown away by it before it was nominated for the Man Booker Prize – and now it’s made the shortlist.   The Blues Brothers meet Deadwood in the California Goldrush in this story of two killers for hire.  It helped reinforce my love of westerns, which was sparked by reading Zane Grey’s 1912 classic Riders of the Purple Sage last year.  The Sisters Brothers is the best thing I’ve read this year.


Gaskella meets … Charlie Higson

This afternoon it was my delight to accompany a party of boys from my school over to the Abingdon school theatre to hear author, actor and comedian Charlie Higson talk about his zombie horror series of books for older children and teenagers. After the event, I was also able to talk briefly to Charlie about his books in my first proper interview for this blog – so exciting!

Charlie started with a straw poll of the audience – zombies or vampires? Being mostly boys, zombies won. Boys it seems, tend to prefer zombie gore, rather than the romantic image of vampires.

Charlie went on tell us about a bit of the history of vampires and zombies in literature.  It all happened one summer back in 1816 at a house party on the shores of Lake Geneva.  It was the summer after Mount Tambora in Indonesia had erupted, and the whole world suffered weird climatic conditions as a result of the ash; so instead of swimming and larking about on the water, this group told stories and from them developed the types of vampires and undead creatures we all adore today.  But who were they?  None other than Byron, Shelley and Shelley’s teenaged girlfriend Mary, plus Byron’s doctor called Polidori, amongst others.  From this gathering would emerge Mary’s Frankenstein, and Polidori’s The Vampyre (expanded from a story fragment by Byron, who was was fascinated by the proto-vampire Strigoi of Balkan legend).  The first literary vampire was very much in the mould of the ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know‘ Byron, and was later combined with the nasty Wallachian king Vlad the Impaler to become best of all vampires, Count Dracula by Stoker.

Then it was on to the zombies!  Charlie told us how he loves horror movies and stories, and that his favourite film is the classic Night of the Living Dead which invented the modern zombie.  After writing five Young Bond books (see previous post), Charlie was ready to write children’s books with his own characters, and decided to try and scare the pants off his readers.

In The Enemy series, he has created a dystopian world in which a disease has killed nearly everyone over the age of fourteen – those who don’t die have been turned into pus-ridden, drooling, children-eating zombies. The remaining children have mostly banded together in groups for safety, and have to find a way to survive, and create a new society.  Sure, there are some Lord of the Flies moments, (my review of that here), but at the heart of the book is the childrens’ quest to find somewhere safe to live, without flesh-eating necrotic zombies around every corner.

The audience of older children, mainly from years 7 & 8 (11+), asked loads of great questions, and all groaned in digust at the drooling zombie in the video trailer for the new book – who rather resembled someone in the room…  I’ll be reviewing the Enemy books more fully in a week or so.

Then, after the boys had gone, I got to sit down and talk with Charlie for a short while.  (Many thanks to Mark at Mostly Books for arranging this for me).

After telling him how much I was enjoying reading all of his books, we started by talking about the Young Bond.  I’d noticed the deliberate homage to Fleming in the first sentence of Silverfin, and asked him about it. He said that he’d put in a quite a few references to the Fleming novels, but didn’t try to capture his style, more the ‘spirit of Fleming’.  I wondered if he’d pictured a younger Sean Connery as his Bond. Charlie said that Fleming’s Bond was really a toff, so that he’d be more a mix of Connery/Brosnan perhaps.  I commented that like Fleming, we always know what Bond is wearing – Charlie replied that the Eton uniform had formed part of his way in to the character – he’d worried that readers wouldn’t believe Bond in starched collars and formal attire, but then he realised it was essentially like a ‘shrunken down tuxedo’ and that was it.

I was going to ask him why zombies in The Enemy series, and not aliens or any other creature, but his love for them was already clear from the talk.  Charlie told me that he wasn’t deeply into the supernatural – his zombies aren’t actually dead, they’re just diseased.  He’d also touched upon the fact that there was the possibility that ‘the thing that’s trying to kill you could be someone you love’there was a scene in the first book where one of the children thinks he recognises his mother, and I said that had creeped me out more than the pus and gore.  I applauded his decision to kill lots of characters, including some unexpected ones – I was thinking of one less than halfway into the first book that I was just growing to love. He said he really enjoyed doing that, but didn’t want killing the characters off to become too expected!

Having a daughter who’s not into adventure books at all (yet!?), I asked if he was finding that girls were reading them too?  It was reassuring to hear that he was as happy to scare girls as boys. He said he did write some strong female characters in them, and felt they did have a good readership amongst girls – at least he had the advantage that girls aren’t afraid to be seen with boyish covers, whereas most boys wouldn’t be seen dead with any books that were at all girly.

I finished by asking him about The Fast Show. You may have heard, but the crew, sans Mark Williams, are back together to film some sketches for the Fosters comedy site, (link below) – they’ll only be online at first though. They will involve all the old characters; I expressed my love for Bob Fleming (cough) who just cracks me up. Charlie said he was great, but it was getting more and more difficult to think of situations to put him into as all he does is cough!

I usually keep out of any photos at events, but this was such a nice experience, I couldn’t resist the souvenir shot like the fangirl I am!  I’d like to thank Charlie for taking the time to talk to me, especially after all the signing he had to do.  He was an absolute pleasure to talk to, and is a really fantastic writer. I’m looking forward to reading many more of his books (including his adult horror ones).

Websites to check out: Charlie Higson,  Young Bond,  The Enemy, Fosters
I bought my copies of the books. To explore further on Amazon UK, click below:
The Fear (The Enemy) by Charlie Higson
Dracula (Penguin Classics) by Bram Stoker
Frankenstein: The 1818 Text (Oxford World’s Classics) by Mary Shelley
The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre (Oxford World’s Classics) by John Polidori
Night Of The Living Dead [Blu-ray] [1968] directed by George Romero.
The Fast Show : Ultimate Collection (7 Disc BBC Box Set) [DVD]

The name’s Bond, James Bond.

The Young Bond novels by Charlie Higson

Today, there’s a mega author event at Abingdon School’s Amey Theatre for over 600 local children – Charlie Higson, the author, actor and comedian (cough) is coming to talk to them, coinciding with the third installment of his zombie horror series, but more of that in another post…

Although I am a Bond fan, I’d not yet read any of Higson’s Young Bond series, despite having them all in my TBR.  It was time – but would I would I recognise him? Would the books live up to the Fleming legacy?

Set between the wars, the first in the series, SilverFin, tells us a little about Bond’s parents – Swiss mother, Scottish father – a globe-trotting, adventure seeking pair who die in a mountain climbing accident, leaving young Bond in the care of his aunt Charmian.

A scene-setting prologue, like in the Bond films, shows a boy getting into trouble sneaking into a fenced and guarded estate in the Highlands to poach trout in the Silverfin lake.  We don’t know if it’s Bond…

Then it shifts to the eleven year old Bond’s arrival at Eton, into an environment that will be the making of him, yet one he’ll never be entirely comfortable in.  He soon gets into trouble with one of the school bullys, George Hellebore, an American whose father owns the Silverfin estate.

When the holidays come, Bond goes to Scotland to stay with his uncle Max, who is dying of cancer.  Max and James bond (sorry!) strongly, and Max will introduce him to fishing and fast cars. Ere long though James will feel compelled to investigate strange goings on at the nearby Hellebore estate, and put his life in jeopardy when he discovers what’s going on in the castle and lake – think eels and evil scientists here. It’s a gritty story – young Bond will be bashed about a lot and need every ounce of his stamina to escape the clutches of the evil megalomaniac villain Hellebore. Although owing much to boys own type adventures, people do get hurt and die – some in particularly gruesome circumstances.

From the start, I felt I was in sure hands, because chapter one starts off:

The smell and noise and confusion of a hallway full of schoolboys can be quite awful at twenty past seven in the morning.

Which directly echoes the first Bond novel, Casino Royale, which begins:

The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.

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The second Young Bond novel, Blood Fever moves the action to the Med – Sardinia. Bond has another uncle who lives there, and plans to spend the summer with Victor after a school archaelogical trip on the island.

When Victor and James are invited to see the dirt-phobic, self-styled Count Ugo Carnifex’s new mountain complex, complete with funicular railway and aqueduct, Bond sees artworks which are strangely familiar, and it’s not long before he’s up to his neck in trouble with Sardinian bandits, secret societies and a Magyar pirate called Zoltan.  Having less background to get through, the adventure gets going at breakneck pace and the villain’s demise is done in true Bond style.  There’s also a girl in this one – called Amy Goodenough – what a great name!  But he’s too young yet for a proper love interest.

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The adult Bond we all know was very recognisable in the youngster – a dislike of authority, happy to go it alone, resilient. He’s built very much like a young Sean Connery too with a lock of black hair that has a tendency to escape.  The unhardened young Bond is someone you’d love to be your friend, as you know he’d stick up for you – he won’t develop his hardened veneer for years yet.  Higson also echoes Fleming in the matters of sartorial elegance, we always know how Bond is dressed, and then there are the cars – they’re the business!

I really enjoyed both of these books – I felt they lived up to my expectations very well indeed. The plots had everything you’d expect from a Bond novel, minus the innuendo and women, and they made up for that with a double dose of enthusiasm.   (SilverFin 8.5/10, Blood Fever 9/10)

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To explore further on Amazon UK, click below:
SilverFin, Blood Fever by Charlie Higson
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

BBAW: Blogger Interview Swap

One of the highlights of Book Blogger Appreciation Week is the Blogger Interview Swap.  I signed up this year, and was paired up with another blogger to ask some questions to.  All the interviews are posted today, and you can see mine over at my interview partner’s blog.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to MJ who blogs at Wandering in the Stacks. MJ is a recent law school graduate “who still, somehow, loves to read.” MJ has only been blogging since July, and now blogs most days. Looking at her reading list, it’s full of interesting books and authors – from George Eliot to Tolstoy, Carson McCullers to Truman Capote.  Here is what I asked her …

As a new blogger, what has excited you most about blogging since you started?

Oh, so many things! The community in general had to be my favorite, though. I love that there are so many people who love to read, and love to share their thoughts. I also love finding bloggers whose tastes are similar to mine – they become a great resource for books and authors I haven’t discovered.

How big is your TBR (to be read) pile and do you have strategies for managing it? If so, I could do with some help!

Ha! I don’t think I would be much help managing a TBR pile. My actual physical pile isn’t that bad. I typically have out a couple library books, and there are several recently bought books on it. Of course, I also have a backlog of books that I acquired somehow, at some point, and I haven’t read, but I don’t count those as official TBR. They’re more like books I’ll probably get to someday. My TBR list on the other hand, is much too long. I finally started a list on GoodReads, but there are countless more books floating around my head that haven’t been written down yet.

Are you a fast or slow reader – how many books do you read in an average month? Is this a reflection on the time you have available to read?

I am a fast reader. This year is the first time I’ve kept track of how many books I’m reading. In January I only read four, but I really struggled with two of those, so that slowed me down significantly. I very rarely abandon a book, so I was slogging along. Last month, August, I read 14. The number depends both on how much time I have, and if I have any books on hand that I’m excited about reading.

Which literary character would you most like to be, and why?

Oh, good question. I think I’d like to be like Leah from The Poisonwood Bible. I admire her ability to flout what society thinks and follow her heart. Plus, she manages to get through several trying situations a stronger person. She knows how to manage her resources to survive.

Where do you write your blog? Describe your blogging environment.

I write on my laptop, at the kitchen table. There’s a window to my left, and I can see some trees, my fire escape, and the Verrazano Bridge. I’m usually surrounded by books – ones I’m reviewing, ones I’m going to read next. Right now that pile is a little higher than I’d like! I’m moving soon, though, the so view outside my window will change, but much of the rest will stay the same.

Thank you MJ. It was a pleasure to ask the questions, and I enjoyed your answers. I shall look forward to seeing your blog develop, and hope you continue to love it. Happy reading and keep on blogging!

Book Blogger Appreciation Week – ‘Community’

Welcome to Book Blogger Appreciation Week! All through the week, there are daily topics for posts on participants’ blogs. I probably won’t have time to join in all of them, but will at least today and tomorrow.

The first topic is ‘Community’ – in particular to celebrate the blogs and bloggers that got us blogging in the first place …

Gaskella’s First Ever Commenter …

When I started my blog back in September 2008, I had been lurking around lit blog land for a while, and plucked up the courage to start making a few comments before launching my own blog.   When I got around to it, my very first commenter was a blogger who was one of the first I discovered, and still read every post on today. It took just five days of blogging to get that comment – and it was on a Guilty Secrets post in which I confessed to never having read Thomas Hardy.

That commenter was Teresa, and her blog is the wonderful Shelf Love which she co-writes with the equally lovely Jenny. Between them, they read and discuss such a wide range of books of all types and genres, and Teresa’s Sunday Salon discussion posts are an absolute must – she always makes me really think with these. Recent subjects have included the use of coincidence in novels, depth versus breadth in reading genres, and who can tell a story? You can rely on Teresa for intelligent reviews and lively discussions. I love that we read many of the same titles and types of books. Living on opposite sides of the pond, we’ve never met, but I feel that we would definitely be friends.  Thank you Teresa – and good luck in the BBAW Awards (Shelf Love is shortlisted in 2 categories).

A blog that always cheers me up & tugs at my heartstrings …

Another blog that I never fail to read is the wonderfulThe Age of Uncertainty written by Steerforth, who is currently setting up business as a book dealer. Steerforth primarily writes about bookish and ephemeral things – Victorian book illustrations, old photos that fall out of books, silly, interesting, and non-PC book covers and titles. Interspersed with these posts are Steerforth’s more meditative ones in which he looks at the world in which he lives and comments with a dry sense of humour. Even more eloquent are his occasional heartfelt posts about his own life and family.  His blog never fails to either cheer me up or tug at my heartstrings – do visit.

My life in my books read – the 2011 version

An updated version of the popular meme in which you answer questions using only titles from books you have read this year has started doing the rounds.  With a whole set of new questions, I couldn’t resist!  Feel free to copy, and check out  Simon T’s, and Fleur Fisher’s goes at it too…

Here are my answers with a couple of small edits to the questions in brackets.  The links are to my reviews…

One time on holiday: Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

Weekends at my house are: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

My neighbour is: A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle

My boss is: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

My superhero secret identity is: The Wizard of Oz by Frank L Baum

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry because (of): Lasting Damage by Sophie Hannah

I’d win a gold medal in: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by William Torday

I’d pay good money for: The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons

If I were Prime Minister I would (be): Pure by Andrew Miller

When I don’t have good books, I (read): Everything and nothing

Loud talkers at the cinema should be: The Waste Lands by Stephen King (Dark Tower #3)

Vamped out? Book Group Report

Two months ago, we were trying to choose a book to read in August, and no-one could come up with any suggestions that met any consensus. I suggested one of the books in the latest series of the Channel 4 TV Book Club that happens to be a vampire story and a jolly good summer read, everyone said OK then.

The book in question was The Radleys by Matt Haig, which I previously reviewed here. In the pub last night, it got quite a mixed reception – but it was a good discussion!

Most of the group agreed that it was a great summer read.  Some, not knowing that it was also being marketed as a YA crossover title wondered whether it was particularly aimed at teens upwards rather than adults.

Some like me, had loved it, but there were a couple for whom it didn’t hit the mark of being original enough, being True Blood fans, they were vamped out by it. I argued that half the point was to have a comic particularly suburban British look at the entire vampire phenomenon.

We were agreed that there were some great scenes though, the whole vegetarian thing, the dinner party drinks, etc, but several found the ‘Abstainer’s Handbook’ which punctuates the chapters unfunny.  We felt that the darker softback cover (right) promised a different read to the paperback (above).  We also spent some time discussing whether the vampirism was a metaphor for drink, drugs, or a case of name your addiction.

The Radleys would make a good book choice, particularly for groups that haven’t read as many vampire novels as we have between us!

Next month:  Candide by Voltaire – you can’t say we don’t read a wide choice of titles!

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To explore further on Amazon UK, click below:
The Radleys by Matt Haig
Candide by Voltaire