Saturday, February 27, 2010

Air Babylon by Imogen Edwards Jones

 Click to view large image of cover in new window...
I am really not at all sure why I bothered to read this as within in a few pages I just knew it was going to be rubbish. However I do not give up easily and kept going in the hope that it might improve or even be funny!
After all it must have made its way on to my wish list of titles due to having read 'Hotel Babylon' and 'Tuscany for Beginners', both of which I found funny and enjoyable. In theory this book was a good idea as only trying to do what was previously a success for the hotel industry, even becoming a TV programme, but for the airline industry a disappointing failure.
I am far from a prude but the antics that some of the airline crews get up to left me feeling rather disgusted! I am sure that some of the material used in the writing of this book would also make the majority of men and women that currently work for the airline industry, somewhat embarrassed. At times it almost seemed as if the anonymous people in this collection of supposedly true stories were proud of themselves. I just cannot think why.
Maybe it is another case of me picking the wrong book at the wrong time as I am due to fly myself in 48hours and would maybe have been better off not knowing about some of the horror stories that go on behind the scenes of the ultimate travel service industry.
I would not recommend this to anyone unless maybe you are thinking of entering the industry yourself, it will certainly help you decide one way or the other, depends if you are game for a lifestyle of debauchery or not.
Of course I may well have taken the book far too seriously and it is really written tongue in cheek!
If this is not an overly exaggerated account of life in the skies then traveller beware.
My reviews for the other two titles can be found here
'Hotel Babylon'
'Tuscany for Beginners'

Monday, February 22, 2010

When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson

                                                When Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie, #3)

This the third mystery novel of Kate Atkinson’s that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed. She draws you into the story very cleverly and I was quickly engrossed in the lives of the at first seemingly unrelated characters. Though of course having read her work before I knew that by a series of coincidences the mystery would gradually become clear and all link together seamlessly. Maybe rather a lot of coincidences to be completely believable but this is reading for pleasure and it is how Kate Atkinson’s novels work.
Once again the characters of Jackson Brodie and Louise Monroe appear as they have done in her previous two mystery novels. Although it does not matter if you have not read the first two, for me it was a pleasure to reconnect with these protagonists. I found every one of the characters appealing and it was intriguing as to how all the overlapping connections between them were eventually going to be resolved. She certainly kept me guessing and entertained right to the very end.
Thirty years ago a terrible crime was committed in Devon for which a man was convicted. The novel starts with this vignette that sets the scene for the mystery that follows when the man convicted of the crime is released from prison. Switching to Edinburgh thirty years on a mother and baby go missing,  but the only person who seems concerned at first is the child's Nanny, sixteen year old Reggie Chase, a character with an intriguing background.
If you are looking to loose yourself in a suspense mystery with great characters then this can be recommended.
In case you are interested I have included links to Bookcrossing entries for her previous two mystery novels
Case Histories
One Good Turn
Kate Atkinson’s Website

Friday, February 19, 2010

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

My Original Review.        Josephs Reviews Blog

I was really chuffed a few days ago when I was contacted by another Book Blogger Joseph, asking if he could share my review with his readers!

It would be much appreciated if you felt able to pop across there and leave a comment.

Thankyou friends.

Kazuo Ishiguro Kräków (Poland) 29 October 2005
BornNovember 8, 1954 (age 55)
Nagasaki, NagasakiJapan
Writing period1981-present
Notablework(s)The Remains of the DayNever Let Me Go

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Amalfi by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

One hundred and thirty-five years ago today, the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807- 1882) wrote a poem reminiscing about the beauty of Amalfi. 

Ciao Amalfi is a great blog which I read regularly as the  Amalfi coast has a special place in my heart. 
Today Ciao Amalfi shared this poem with her readers promting me to do so also, with full credit to her for the idea. Thankyou. Do pop over and visit her Blog I think you will find it is worth it.


Sweet the memory is to me
Of a land beyond the sea,
Where the waves and mountains meet,
Where amid her mulberry-trees
Sits Amalfi in the heat,                                                    
Bathing ever her white feet
In the tideless summer seas. 

In the middle of the town,
From its fountains in the hills,
Tumbling through the narrow gorge,
The Canneto rushes down,
Turns the great wheels of the mills,
Lifts the hammers of the forge.

'T is a stairway, not a street,
That ascends the deep ravine,
Where the torrent leaps between
Rocky walls that almost meet.
Toiling up from stair to stair
Peasant girls their burdens bear;
Sunburnt daughters of the soil,
Stately figures tall and straight,
What inexorable fate
Dooms them to this life of toil?

Lord of vineyards and of lands,
Far above the convent stands.
On its terraced walk aloof
Leans a monk with folded hands,
Placid, satisfied, serene,
Looking down upon the scene
Over wall and red-tiled roof;
Wondering unto what good end
All this toil and traffic tend,
And why all men cannot be
Free from care and free from pain,
And the sordid love of gain,
And as indolent as he.

Where are now the freighted barks
From the marts of east and west?
Where the knights in iron sarks
Journeying to the Holy Land,
Glove of steel upon the hand,
Cross of crimson on the breast?
Where the pomp of camp and court?
Where the pilgrims with their prayers?
Where the merchants with their wares,
And their gallant brigantines
Sailing safely into port
Chased by corsair Algerines?

Vanished like a fleet of cloud,
Like a passing trumpet-blast,
Are those splendors of the past,
And the commerce and the crowd!
Fathoms deep beneath the seas
Lie the ancient wharves and quays,
Swallowed by the engulfing waves;
Silent streets and vacant halls,
Ruined roofs and towers and walls;
Hidden from all mortal eyes
Deep the sunken city lies:
Even cities have their graves!

This is an enchanted land!
Round the headlands far away
Sweeps the blue Salernian bay
With its sickle of white sand:
Further still and furthermost
On the dim discovered coast
Paestum with its ruins lies,
And its roses all in bloom
Seem to tinge the fatal skies
Of that lonely land of doom.

On his terrace, high in air,
Nothing doth the good monk care
For such worldly themes as these,
From the garden just below
Little puffs of perfume blow,
And a sound is in his ears
Of the murmur of the bees
In the shining chestnut trees;
Nothing else he heeds or hears.
All the landscape seems to swoon
In the happy afternoon;
Slowly o'er his senses creep
The encroaching waves of sleep,
And he sinks as sank the town,
Unresisting, fathoms down,
Into caverns cool and deep!

Walled about with drifts of snow,
Hearing the fierce north-wind blow,
Seeing all the landscape white,
And the river cased in ice,
Comes this memory of delight,
Comes this vision unto me
Of a long-lost Paradise
In the land beyond the sea.

Amalfi, vista panoramica by marco_ask.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Book-lovers meet on Valentine's Day

As some of you know I am a member and great fan of Bookcrossing. I want to share this great video which explains the concept of Bookcrossing and features one of my BC friends 'Lyzzybee'

Fall in Love With BookCrossing

What happens when you put BookCrossing and Valentine's Day together? If you're in Birmingham, UK the answer is A Novel Way to Find Love. On February 14, BookCrossers and other book enthusiasts will gather at Urban Coffee to try speed-dating, book-lover style. Instead of trying to find the perfect sweetheart during the course of several two-minute interviews with a roomful of hopefuls, participants will pitch a favorite book to convince others of its worth. This event, hosted by the Birmingham BookCrossers to raise awareness of and funds for, the charity LUCIA, is open to the public. As an added bonus, celebrated author R. J. Ellory will also discuss a few favorite books and answer questions about his own novels. To whet your appetite and maybe inspire you to find a little BookCrossing Love, check out this video about the Birmingham gathering.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Outcast by Sadie Jones


Click to view large image of cover in new window...


An absorbing read in which it is I think impossible not to feel tremendously sympathetic towards the protagonist Lewis Aldridge who although only nineteen has already had an awful lot to cope with in his young life. What an unhappy young man although nobody seems to notice, or if they do they certainly do not offer to help him.

It was the 1950’s stiff upper lip era and this angry and deeply troubled young man was just labelled as a trouble maker.

The early years of his life were spent solely in the company of his mother Elizabeth as his father was away fighting in the Second World War and they were very close.  It is therefore no surprise to the reader at least, that after the tragic death of his mother Lewis suffers from overwhelming grief and anger. His father seems unable or unwilling to help his son and the damage done to Lewis, festers inside him until one day in his teenage years he just cannot take any more.

Never having had the support he needed from his family or local community as a boy, when he returns as a young man after serving a jail sentence his actions have still not been forgiven. His return in fact triggers chaos for the whole community.

The only person willing to help Lewis is young Kit Carmichael the youngest of his childhood playmates, who has her own painful secrets to hide. In her attempt to save Lewis from himself she brings her own father’s horrifying behaviour towards her and other members of her family, out into the open.

A painful,  menacing but beautifully and evocatively told story of duplicity amongst the middle classes in a nineteen fifties village in southern England.

If you interested in finding out more about this author you can do so by following this link. I will certainly be looking out for her next novel ‘Small Wars’ set in Cyprus in 1957.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Space Between by Rachel Billington

Click to view large image of cover in new window...Escapism and readable but did not leave a great impression on me. 
The heroine of this love story with the touch of a thriller has way too many complications in her life for it to be totally realistic, which is exactly why I label it escapism. So much happens to Alice in a relatively short time that when the end arrived it was actually a relief and I have to say in the end, no real surprise. For me slightly fewer coincidences would have made it more enjoyable.

Alice is at a turning point in her life when after three years as a young widow she finds her safe routine world turned upside down by a sudden influx of unexpected occurrences. Unlikely lovers declaring themselves and a mysterious woman make her busy life as a journalist all the more confusing. That is without coping with the expectations of a daughter who assumes that Alice’s life revolves around her grandchild and a somewhat difficult elderly father.

I have read other novels by this author but the last one was over ten years ago and I thought she was an author I enjoyed, which was the reason I obtained this copy. Either my tastes have changed or this is not up to her usual standard. One of my favourites was ‘A Womans Age which was a bestseller twenty years ago.

If you enjoy this genre give her novels a try, but do not be put off by this one as I do not think it is the best example of her work.

I visited Rachel Billingtons website and was very surprised in what she had to say herself about this novel being a comedy, which I have reproduced below.

Too many of my friends have become widows. Their sadness is mitigated by an intense urge to carry on with a full life. I admire their courage enormously. In The Space Between Alice Lightfoot is widowed very young – in her early forties, although she’s already been made a grandmother by her rebellious teenage daughter. I wanted to write a book about a woman starting again, looking for a new life and a new love. It turned out to be more of a comedy than I expected as lovers presented themselves in perhaps slightly unlikely numbers.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Charles Dickens

The most popular English novelist of the Victorian era, Dickens is still recognised as one of our greatest novelists.
Surely we have all read and enjoyed at least one of his novels.
The most famous loved by so many is probably “A Christmas Carol”

He was born on this day in 1812 and already plans have been set in motion for his centenary in two years time, which is why I felt he deserved a mention here today.

Charles Dickens 2012   If you are interested this is the link to follow.

I have at least six of his novels on my classics bookshelf and although I rarely re-read novels, I am going to make an exception and have set myself a challenge to read them all again over the next two years in recognition of his centenary.

I will of course report here as to how I am getting on!

Charles Dickens
BornCharles John Huffam Dickens
7 February 1812
LandportPortsmouth, England
Died9 June 1870 (aged 58)
Gad's Hill PlaceHigham, Kent, England
Resting placePoets' CornerWestminster Abbey
Notablework(s)Sketches by BozThe Old Curiosity ShopOliver Twist,Nicholas NicklebyBarnaby RudgeA Christmas CarolMartin ChuzzlewitA Tale of Two Cities,David CopperfieldGreat ExpectationsBleak HouseLittle DorritHard TimesOur Mutual FriendThe Pickwick Papers

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

Click to view large image of cover in new window...

Having enjoyed other novels by Kazu Ishiguro’s  when I was offered the chance to borrow a copy of When We Were Orphans written in 2000 I decided to accept.  An agreeable read which although I found slow to start with it made me think about childhood loss and how memory can play tricks.

The protagonist is Christopher Banks  born in Shanghai to a British couple early in the twentieth century. There he led the happy sheltered life of an expat of the time until the mysterious disappearance of his parents. The story is narrated by Christopher as now some twenty years later he is living in London, having been sent to England after becoming an orphan.
He comes over as a bumbling tragic character and it is difficult to imagine him as the well respected detective he has become.

Since the age of nine when he was orphaned Christopher has always been haunted by the unresolved case of his parents disappearance, which he has always believed was a kidnapping. Having become a detective he is now more than ever determined to return to Shanghai and solve the case, despite the fact that the city is now under attack by the Japanese Army.
His memories of the city and the difficulties he encounters especially in trusting the people around him make this latter part of the novel much more atmospheric reading than the earlier parts.

By the end I was thoroughly drawn in to the story that had slowly built and which the author manages to bring to a convincing conclusion.