Stacl of Penguin Books

Berlin at War by Roger Moorhouse

Janson Equation

The Tenko Bible

Abdication by Juliet Nicholson

Stephanie Beacham autobiography

Bourne Retribution based on Robert Ludlum

White Boots by Noel Streatfeild

Murdoch Mystery Book 1

Journey to Munich

The Mayan Destiny by Steve Alten

Good Vibrations My Life as a Beach Boy by Mike Love

Fall of a Philanderer - DD Mystery

Teleportation Accident

Murdoch Mysteries Under the Dragon's Tail

Catherine Book  4

Catherine Book  3

Murdoch Mystery Except the Dying by Maureen Jennings

Sisters at the Chalet School bu Amy Fletcher

The Bourne Imperative Ludlum and Lustbader

Trials for the Chalet School

Georgette Heyer An Infamous Army

Harper Lee Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird

Brent-Dyer Joey goes to the Oberland

S J Parris Conspiracy

S J Parris Treachery

Juniors at the Chalet School

Book 7 Les Rois Maudits

Nicola goes to the Oberland

Robert Ludlum Utopia Experiment

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Joey & Co in Tirol

Cazalet Book 5 All Change

Cazalet Saga Casting Off Book 4

Cazalets Book 3 Confusion

The Cazalets Book 2 Marking Time

Cazalet Book 1 Light Years

Karen Harper the Queens Confidante

Patriot Attack by Robert Ludlum

Naked Nazis by Alan Stafford

TCW Red Lilian Jackson Braun

The Bettanys at Taverton High

The Bettanys on the Home Front

Robert Ludlum Geneva Strategy

A Mourning Wedding by Carola Dunn

Daisy Tower

After Dead Charlaine Harris

Janus Reprisal

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Surprises for the Chalet School

Cornelia of the Chalet School

Catherine Book 1

Caterine Book 2

The Roswell Conspiracy by Boyd Morrison

Champion of the Chalet School

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

Lamentation by C J Sansom

heatre Shoes by Noel Streitfield

Code Talker by Chester Nez

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Dead Reckoning

TCW Danish Modern

Au Reservoir Mapp and Lucia

TCW read backwards book cover

Inferno by Dan Brown

Karen Harper - Shakespeare's Mistress

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

The Book Thief by Markus Zusack

The Einstein Pursuit by Chris Kuzneski

Chalet School World by Helen Barber

Heresy by S J Parris

Prophecy by S J Parris

Sacrilege by S J Parris

A Woman of Consequence

Titanic Tennis Story

Summer Term at the Chalet School

Murder of the Romanovs

Die Laughing

Mayan Resurrection

A Touch of Dead

Lucia on Holiday

Mistletoe and Murder

Queens Governess by Karen Harper

Muller Twins at the Chalet School

Death Relic

Gentleman of Fortune

JMB Zwitner

Major Benjy

Dead and Gone

War Guest Shubik

Ares Decision Ludlum

King's Concubine

Tied Up with Notts

Tainted Relic

Case of the Murdered Muckraker

William Shatner Biography

Mayan Prophecy

Ballet Shoes for Anna

The Plantation

Janson Command

Dead to Worse

Daisy Dalrymple Davy Jones

The Secret Crown

Chalet School Robin

Kings Diamond

Terrible Splendor

A Moment of Silency by Anna Dean

Noel Streatfeild Tennis Shoes

Robert Ludlum Bourne Objective

Bourne Dominion

Edwin Drood

That Woman by Anne Sebba

Rules of Civility

Definitely Dead

Gods Atlantis

Enders Game by Orson Scott Card

The Prophesy by Chris Kuzneski

All Together Dead Charlaine Harris

Rattle His Bones by Carola Dunn

Child of <y Love by Sue Ryder

Acquitaine Progression by Robert Ludlum

The Celestial City Baroness Orczy

Atlantis Code by Charles Brokaw

Madam Will you Talk

Dead as a Doornail - Charlene Harris

The Lost Throne Chris Kuzneski

The Scarlatti Inheritance by Robert Ludlum

Styx and Stones a Daisy Dalrymple Mystery

The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry

Daughter of Siena by Marina Fiorato

Heartstone by C J Sansom

Dead to the World - True Blood no. 4

Sword of God by Chris Kuzneski

A Difficult Term at the Chalet School

Dead in the Water by Carola Dunn

House of the Hanged by Mark Mills

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier

The Third Secret by Steve Berry

Bride Leads the Chalet School

Atlantis byDavid Gibbins

Sing of the Cross by Chris Kuzneski

Madeleine by Kate McCann

The Last Dance 1936

Cat Who turned on and off

Babylon Revisited by F Scott Fitzgerald

Damsel in Distress

Journey Without a Ticket

Club Dead Book 3 True Blood Series

Chalet School In Exile

Story of a State Secret

The Rhinemann Exchange by Robert Ludlum

Dead Until Dark

Living Dead in Dallas

Ekaterinburg

Schindler's Ark

The Russian Court at Sea

Yhe Botticielli Secret by Marina Fiorato

Revelation by C J Sansom

Sovereign by C J Sansom

Dreadnought with Good Manners

Margaret Rutherford Radio Play

The Glass Room

 

Current Reading

(For clarification purposes: If there is more than one comment to any of the books or series of books they will be stacked with the earliest comment at the base of the section and the newest comments immediately under the title of the pertinent section)

'An Infamous Army' by Georgette Heyer

My first ever Georgette Heyer - given to me to read by a friend who knows that I adore 'Vanity Fair' by Thackeray and who, to her credit did read the first Angélique at my recommendation. - March 2017

'Berlin at War' by Roger Moorhouse

Interview about this book with RM here

'Remembering Tenko' by Andy Priestner and a little help from Lavinia Warner

Seriously, I had no idea I had this book, I must have bought it with a view to giving it to my friend Anna in Paris who surely must have been Tenko's no. 1 fan! But, as I was unable to get it to her before her untimely death, I must have put it away and made myself forget I still had it. Whilst looking for my next biography to read which I determined would be Evonne Goolagongs' something made me look in a pile of books screened by various cards and there was this enormous tome staring back at me. I brought it and the pile of dust it accumulated down and then continued to hunt for Evonne who was in a much likelier storage area, a box, dust free of the 'waiting to read' pile (I have them all over the house). The more I read the more I became determined that the experience ought, and now has, to go into my 'coincidences are signposts' page because I kept being transported back to the 1970s on so many levels (and through long-forgotten names) to when I worked at the Television Centre and Royal Court theatre. I'm watching a re-run of 'Tenko' at the moment and have just read Stephanie Beacham's biography which took me to the Nottingham Playhouse days none of this pecking order is deliberately linked it's just happened and if it continues like this, these 700 pages or so comprising the book should be a roller-coaster ride, I'll let you know how I get on! (September 2017). And here is my conclusion - this is a remarkable and complete history of the series from inception to transmission and reviews - no secret has not been exposed, no stone unturned, everything but everything has been bared before the public eye! Is 'Tenko' really entertainment? The subject matter certainly is not but the creation of series and the way it is unravelled layer and layer in the book is riveting. A remarkable, truly, piece of writing. I shall certainly use it as a reference point in the future and who knows may even decided to re-read it at some point. A Herculean labour of love! - 3rd October 2017

'Abdication' by Juliet Nicholson

This is a surprisingly engaging novel, well written and cleverly knitting fact and fiction together. Taking the two principal characters of the abdication crisis (Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson) as the centrepoint the author weaves in a mix of characters to tell us about a love story between two young people, who, but for the events that occur might not ever have met. We meet May and her brother as they first arrive in Liverpool to explore the land of their late mother's family as they leave behind them an abusive father. Both siblings are well grounded and likeable as characters and on meeting their relatives then forge their own futures in mid-1930s Europe which may well be thinking of the threat of war rather than a constitutional crisis. We also meet a 'schoolfriend' of Mrs Simpson, who will play a large part in the scenario, a government official who employs May and is linked to the young man of her dreams, Wallis' friend and the developing problems created by the death of George V and his successor. The storyline is clever using the abdication and the rise of fascism as a backcloth and introducing historical characters such as Lord Reith (BBC) and Mosely (Britain's failed Hitler) into the mix making it credible and without becoming a history lesson. The book ends with an explantation (cleverly hinted at throughout the book) of May's origins and paves the way for her future with Julian over a bag of chips in the cinema. - September 2017

From Amazon.co.uk - After the recent death of George V, England has a new king, Edward VIII. But for all the confident pomp and ceremony of the accession, it is a turbulent time. When nineteen-year-old May Thomas arrives in Liverpool, her first job as secretary and chauffeuse to Sir Philip Blunt introduces her to the upper echelons of British society - and to Julian, a young man of conscience whom, despite all barriers of class, she cannot help but fall for. But hidden truths, unspoken sympathies and covert complicities are everywhere, and the threat of another world war becomes increasingly inevitable...

'Many Lives' by Stephanie Beacham

Autobiography with a whimsical touch! (As you would expect of course) - Two things commend this book highly, the first is that Stephanie Beacham has never hidden behind or from her disability. Of course it helps that she is a beautiful woman and she carries an 'invisible' disability which is every bit as debilitating as a pronounced limp for instance (as in my own case) but not immediately apparent (no so in my case) - so there, that's out of my system now! The other is that the book is open and in places very, very entertaining as I would expect having shared time with Stephanie and many others during my employment as the Stage Door Keeper (she never shoved a tenner in my hand on a Saturday night!) at the Nottingham Playhouse. It's very easy to read, I love the name dropping and the fairness with which she attributes to every person mentioned but the whimsical areas made me cringe rather than the original intention, which, I think was to be thought-provoking reading. This area, for my part, would have been better kept private (and any biography I write would not touch on this type of belief) but then the volume would have been rather slim. Even now, it's not weighty; perhaps she should have waited a few more years before penning her life experiences. I have pleasant memories of this woman and her spaniels and her performance as 'Juno' (she was a fairy!) in 'The Tempest' which also brings fond memories of a charming man, Paul Freeman, who treated the lowly Stage Door Keeper very nicely. - 11th September 2017

'Too Naked for the Nazis' by Alan Stafford

The definitive biography of Wilson, Keppel and Betty! A book I was truly pleased would see the light of day. The problem with the long wait and the death of the 'main guys' (some Bettys were available for first hand interviews) is that the book, inevitable became a bit 'dry' in places and could even sometimes resemble a text book rather than a leisurely read, but it does not detract from being, in the main, a riveting read of the trio and their various 'plus one Bettys'. As I wrote a review for Amazon.co.uk and it truly reflects the majority of my thoughts without the textbook reference, I'm happy to reproduce it here. - 5th September 2017

My Amazon review (with obligatory title) "They look like a bunch of Tut's hieroglyphs that can really sand boogie!" - I always dread coming to the end of a book knowing I would want more (better than coming to the end of a book and being thankful there's a charity box it’s destined for) which is exactly what has happened with this ridiculously but perfectly titled ‘Too Naked for the Nazis.’ I howled with laughter when I saw this title (I did have pre-knowledge that a book was going to be written) and by the time I got to Chapter 21 I wondered if there was a more personal angle here. So why the fascination with Wilson Keppel and Betty? My late father, a war time hero seriously wounded in the Battle for Monte Cassino, adored them! I suspect he enjoyed the Tiller Girls more but whenever there was a chance of seeing this trio the anticipation and excitement was palpable, the disappointment of their not being billed was equally oppressive. I always looked out for snippets of information about them and when I created my own website they, plus a couple of literary authors whose efforts were cut by British publishers, were my first tributes / quests. After listening to the radio show Wilson, Keppel and Several Bettys I was glad to learn something new, there was more than one Betty which was a surprise in itself. This book then took me on a further roller coaster - the tie-in with the Nazis (still a no-go area with some factions remember ‘Allo ‘Allo and the furore that caused?) was a revelation. I was already aware of Goebbels purported objection to the close proximity of Wilson and Keppel during the sand dance being ‘bad for the morals of the Hitler Youth’, talk about a touch of irony considering the depraved lengths the 3rd Reich visited on women (think Salon Kitty), and those they considered ‘untermensch’ (subhuman); but had not picked up on the link to the Nuremberg trials - what a riveting chapter that was. How do the atrocities of the Nazis fit into a book about a comic trio? To understand that you have to read this book which is a fascinating and well balanced insight into the best and worst of many opposing factors: love/hate comedy/tragedy fame/obscurity life/death war/peace poverty/riches. Although Nazis feature in the title (made you look didn’t it?) the time span of the story of Wilson, Keppel and their Betty's covers several decades. They experienced a glorious time of inventions and geopolitical change and yet appeared to remain unchanged themselves, subtley adding to and refining their act as they went along. It is fitting to quote directly from the book which, itself, took the comment from a theatre programme: ‘The apparent simplicity of their act conceals years of toil towards perfection.’ This book is a labour of love and I’m so glad it was written in my lifetime by someone who obviously cherishes these quaint loveable lunatics as much as I do. Definitely on my re-read list at some future date.

'Journey to Munich' by Jacqueline Winspear

This is a new author for me (and these days it always worries me that I may end up reading another substandard novel) but I was pleasantly surprised to find an intelligently written novel conveying the truly horrifying atmosphere that was beginning to permeate Germany (in this case Munich) in 1938 shortly prior to the annexation of Austria. Interesting storyline incorporating an established character from previous books but with sufficient background information to keep the reader abreast of the history of the major character without having to search for earlier books in the series. I think I've made it clear in previous reviews that I'm not a fan of Holocaust fiction, but this has its basis in a factual scenario which blends in well with the underlying current of what will become one of the worst periods of the 20th century. - August 2017

'Code Talker' by Chester Nez

From Amazon : The Navajo code is the only unbroken code in modern warfare. It ensured the end of WWII by assuring the US victory in Japan. Only one original Navajo code talker still survives; Code Talker is his story. The Japanese had managed to crack every code the United States used. US military intelligence turned to the Navajo recruits and their native language to create a secret military code that the Japanese were unable to break and allowed embattled regiments of Marines to communicate quickly, concisely and above all, securely.

This book was an honour and privilege to read and fascinating to boot. I could have wished for a little more about the creation of the code, but in the grand scheme of things, the code was part of the warfare and as such had to have a commensurate proportion allocated to its inception; similarly it then featured in greater proportion as it became an active part of the action, tried, proven and successful. I learned a lot from this book, 'Bletchley' was not the only incredibly long-lived war secret, the Code Talkers were not recognised until 1968. Even later were they designated a 'National Code Talker Day' (August 14th) by which time many had died. I learned so much about the Navajo way of life (needless to say not all necessarily to my taste) and just as I would love to taste a proper chowder and corn bread I would now love to sample the Navajo 'fried' bread. I loved reading about and learning the Navajo traditions and the meanings behind them and their 'walking through beauty' way of life. This book is an education to anyone with an open mind, especially the religiosity of the way of life and the respect accorded to every living creature whose life must not be taken recklessly, for pleasure or aimlessly. The war impacted greatly on Nez's beliefs once he was taken out of the theatre of war. The 'theatre' or war, who coined that I wonder, worse still whose twisted mind came up with 'friendly fire'? I have never been comfortable with that terminology since first hearing it during a Gulf War report. I can see the logic of 'enemy' versus 'friendly' fire - yett it is anything but! Your own side, your own team shoots at you (albeit mistakenly) is anything but 'friendly'. Why do I mention this? Because some US soldiers having come across two of the Navajo Code Talkers (who as Marines had had their hair shorn) determined that they were Japanese and were of a mind to shoot them there and then. I cannot come to terms with the mentality that coined that most appalling of phrases and I thank Nez for making it so real for me - this book will definitely warrant a re-read at some point. - August 2017

'Good Vibrations - My Life as a Beach Boy' by Mike Love

Time for a biography, as Mike published his first, so I shall read it before Brian Wilson's. The book is written in a nice conversational style with not too much emphasis on the great 'I am' and with an excellent historical background overview of his origins. The all-American Surfer Boy has Sweden in his ancestry inheriting (as do his siblings) the Viking height and red-blonde hair colouring! This biography stays on an even keel throughout even through the darkest periods of Mike's life, the failure of his many and varied relationships for instance and the lack of contact with many of his offspring, the discovery that one of them was not his, the deaths of his cousins Dennis and Carl, his estrangement from Brian on many levels, his relationship with his uncle Murry for the sake of his mother and the bad blood caused by mismanaged finances and musical recognition. The darker parts are (obviously) not as entertaining as the enjoyable and creative sections, but then they are not supposed to be. Mike manages to keep hostility and resentment at bay, but he is open about both emotions. Transcendental Meditation (TM) seems to accont for much of his equanamily which comes across as sincere and there is no need to doubt it - Mike regularly participates in cleansing rituals, is committed to supporting his chosen charities openly, is a vegetarian and conservationist, has given up alcohol and any small amount of drugs he might have experimented with. There is nothing in his lifestyle that can cast shadows on his sincerity and the fact that he runs to parallel Christian practices, instilling into his Children that Christmas is all about the birth of Christ and not a commercial holiday making him a rounded good egg in my opinion. Recommended reading for anyone who enjoys the Beach Boys or reading biographies - August 2017

'The Teleportation Accident' by Ned Beauman

I finally decided to read this! I love the book cover it's a great piece of Warhol-like kitsch featuring the perfectly coiffed head of a 20-30s flapper - just the sort of thing that would catch my eye. I have no read the book and it is so well-written grammatically that it is a joy that then is instantly destroyed by the frequent and unnecessary use of the f-word, which I particularly dislike at the best of times, especially when used to describe the 'act of love' - there is no love here, but male reviewers seem to enjoy the concept! That's really where any fleeting pleasure ends; this book (acclaimed and put up for a prize) is, as far as I am concerned (in this order) 'Goodbye to Berlin' (Christopher Isherwood also known as 'Cabaret') meets 'The Blind Assassin' (Margaret Atwood) becomes 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' (James Thurber) desperately trying to be 'Catch-22' (Joseph Heller) and failing miserably! Aha! But that was not the end, as I came to the section concerning Hollywood in the 1930s there was a definite whiff of 'The Day of the Locust' by Nathanael West and the epilogue gave us four (purportedly) alternative endings which were really just a continuation encompassing a fictional meeting with the fictional character who then proceeded to dictate he memoirs (think Hitler's diaries), the Dallas 'shower scene', it was all a dream you see, or a nod to Oscar Wilde's 'The picture of Dorian Grey' when one character remarks on another's youthful appearance and ends with a really zeitgeist moment we have already seen in the original films, television series and now remakes of the 'Planet of the Apes', the destruction of mankind leaving the world (in this case Venice) in the hands/paws/fins of mythological mer-creatures and upright apes. So, what was it that originally secretly seduced and induced me to start and continue with this novel - two major factors - the first that the main character is a theatre set designer (not films you understand) who is researching a mythical inventor thinly disguised as the great da Vinci (getting around copyright issues by calling his character Lavinci). My qualifications are those of a Theatre Designer (in my case specialising in props of which the 'Teleporter' in the title would have been one) and my area of Art History expertise is the early Renaissance (although I've always felt da Vinci was a bit fanciful and overrated, preferring Mantegna, Botticielli and the Northern artists of the time) you'd think ...... wouldn't you, that this would be the ideal book for me to read. Think again. 17th July 2017

'Sisters at the Chalet School' by Amy Fletcher

A new in-fill author trying her hand at filling some gaps and making a jolly good fist at it that's for certain. So far this is the most entertaining of the in-fills and keeping very close not only to the spirit but also the style of writing by EBD, she would have been pleased. Only two very small criticisms, just towards the end of the book the appalling misuse of the word 'forward' was replaced with 'forwards' which as we all know can only be used as a collective for a certain football or other sport position and not in a sentence such as 'moved smartly forwards to take their places' (page 204 for those interested) it is a pet hate of mine and abused constantly by certain tennis commentators on Eurosport and BT Sports and the BBC Sports service when their services are used bah! The other small criticism is that there are at least two unnecessary chapters that interrupt the free flow of the storyline - many of the aspects of these chapters are 'justified' at the conclusion of the book where timelines are scrutinised. I'd have preferred not to have to read them. However, I reiterate that this is by far the best of the in-fill bunch and set at an interesting time; the waning of WWII with its many end of war activities and military actions which impacted heavily on various individual characters - June 2017

'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'Go Set a Watchman' by Harper Lee

Catching up with my education - 'To Kill a Mockingbird', yes seriously. A friend of mine told me that it had been on the set curriculum for her (she's only 5 years younger) and it differed quite considerably from the reading matter I studied for my 'A'-level English, although that did give me a new favourite book in Huxley's dystopian 'Brave New World' with Orwell's diametrically opposite view of the future in '1984' as the companion read - one was sterile and sanitary and the other was dusty and dirty in my view. Anyway, I digress, this book confused me with its convoluted introduction to the character list on page one, but as I continued I was quickly able to separate the jumble and pecking order of the 'cast'. This book started with the feel of the film 'Forrest Gump' and I instantly saw the image of Gregory Peck as Atticus without being prompted and immediately felt at one with him. The book plods along quite nicely giving you an overview of life somewhere in the South sometime 'tween the world wars maybe. Yet, it was completely different to my favourite, gossipy, incestuous New England territory. Smiling I completed Part 1 with the joy of youthful memories and was brought back into the harsh light of reality in Part 2 it hit me in the solar plexus. I started moving away from the shock during the courtroom episode which was not well or entertainingly written, too much courtroom drama on tv probably queered it for me. Then we were given an insight into the time frame, it was now definitely sometime in the early 1930s although no hint of WWII or mention or reference made to WWI ever came into play. The mystery that has been running thoughout comes to a dramatic and somewhat violent conclusion but at least justice was seen to be done! I have no idea where the sequel will go and as decades have passed since the first was written in 1960 (didn't know that until just now either!) I'll wait a little while before I give it a go. - May 2017

Murdoch Mysteries : 'Except the Dying', 'Under the Dragon's Tail' and 'Night's Child' by Maureen Jennings

'Under the Dragon's Tail' - is Book 2 of the series (I have only purchased three which came as a job lot and the last one to read will, in fact, be Book 4) and we meet (very cursorily) Dr. Ogden with the usual comic touches when Murdoch (who is a lot more irascible than the Murdoch we love in the television series) realises that she is a woman! But we don't really get much of a description, so knowing the television version helps to sweeten the pill somewhat. At this stage Dr. Ogden is not a pivotal part of the plot. Once again the book takes us into the local territory and introduces to a myriad or characters, some integral to the action, some, of necessity, not. We don't get the pondering deductive investigative powers displayed by Murdoch on television and Constable Higgins is still the big strapping lad with not much 'up there.' The descriptions of the time, the poverty and the despair are all portrayed accurately and there is no sensitivity or sympathy here, all quite factual and often stomach turning, makes you wonder how anyone ever survived. There's a tiny bit of a happy ending but the price will be paid by someone somewhere. I'll be happy to read the 4th volume but don't see the need of pursuing the entire written series - 10th July, 2017

'Except the Dying' is the book that introduces us to Detective (no rank) William Murdoch. I have to admit to liking this book and the style (once I got used to it) of writing. It's a little alien as I don't know too much about the workings of the turn of the century but luckily not too much 'flammery'. The way the chapters are set up can be a bit jumpy, more film scripts than a smooth transition and it most definitely help, yes it does, to be an aficionado of the television series! Andrew, my sister Marysia and I are all fans of the series but, interestingly, neither of the other two enjoyed the books; that did not put me off reading the first one to trial it! I shouldn't be surprised that I enjoyed it, you see the other two like Harry Potter, I read the books under sufferance so no-one could say I was criticising without sampling them. I did wait to read them all in one go but even that did not endear me to them or make me become a slavish fan. I have two more Murdoch books and will read them, but I don't think I'll bother with any more. The real help was envisioning the characters as they are portrayed on television even though some of the original descriptions differ. The other big difference is that in reading, you get an insight into the other characters and what they are up to, in the television series you mainly only see how Murdoch solves the crime. - May 2017

'The King Without a Kingdom' by Maurice Druon

Oh the joy of finally being able to read the 7th and final instalment of 'The Accursed Kings' (Les Rois Maudits) after all these years. Yes, I read the original in French and even the Polish translation, but it's the nuances you miss when thirsting for knowledge and as a result rushing through the book in indecent haste! Now is the time to sit back, relax and listen to this aged uncle of mine telling me his story. Other than he refers to me as his 'nephew' but I don't mind - yes, the book is written in the first person singular and recounts in an acutely orderly manner the descriptive ramblings and reminiscences of Cardinal Périgord. No stone with reference to the horrors of war and incompetence of the ruling monarchy is left unturned - 14th October 2016

'Nicola Goes to the Oberland' by Josephine M. Hardman

This is a pleasantly whimsical wish/bucket list look at someone with reasonably low self-esteem wanting, like mad, to have been able to attend a finishing school and where better than at St. Mildred's the Swiss Senior Branch of the Chalet School. For everyone of us who wanted to live that school life, but who are now too old to do so, this book answers the angst we all felt. It really has a wonderful feel-good factor but is absurdly (in a nice way) 'too good to be true'. Everything works out for Nicola, who must be Josephine M. Hardman (coincidence or deliberately imitating the authoress and eponymous, in several titles, heroine Josephine M. Bettany (Maynard)) and is wanting to break away from the drudgery of an old-fashioned secretarial career. The spur, initiated in the original books, is the belief that professional life can be considerably bettered by learning a couple of popular languages. Set sometime in the late 1950s-early 1970s before, those of us of a certain generation really did burn our bras and get liberated. this is a nice to read, lovingly created and very well written short story which pays homage to some of the original characters without trying to stamp any personal opinions on them. - September 2016

The Cazalets : 'The Light Years', 'Marking Time', 'Confusion', 'Casting Off' and 'All Change' by Elizabeth Jane Howard

We recently saw a televised version of these books and were disappointed that the series had not reached a conclusion - as a result all three of us intend to enjoy reading the whole saga from the beginning. The prose is proving easy and entertaining to read and the books are all heavy volumes - should be a relaxing exercise. I have Book 1, 'The Light Years' under way. April 2016

Curiosity compelled me to see whether or not the 'Cazalets' were in any way autobiographical - they were - an obituary in The Guardian reveals all in this taster - "Her frank and detailed autobiography, Slipstream (2002), revealed how closely the Cazalet family was modelled on her own and that the roots of her novel Falling were in her own encounter with a conman. In November 2013, a fifth Cazalet novel, All Change, was published, shortly after a long-running dramatisation of the original quartet on BBC Radio 4."

The Light Years - I had intended to read these books individually in between others that are and have been waiting for some time to be read and are either gathering dust or languishing in a box neither fate justifiable to the majority of them - however, having been drawn back into the world of the Cazalet Family I find I don't want to relinquish their hold and have decided to read Book 2 immediately - maybe the end of Book 1 and the inevitable spiral into WWII may have been the propelling factor, but maybe not completely. The TV series was astonishing faithful to the books and maybe because it was cut off half-way through, makes me want to stay with the family until the bitter end and that won't come until the end of Book 5 so here I am, an onlooker wanting to know what happens to them all. The book has much more of the story telling, particularly the emotions that the characters experience, the shame of me of Zoe's 'rape' - was it or wasn't it, even she wasn't sure - but she was sure of her infidelity! Of the crush heaped on Rupe by his niece who misread the signs and nearly tore his marriage apart. Of the late 'babies' and were they wanted by either father and the anguish and upheaval they would cause as stormclouds gathered. The book ends on an optimistic note - war has been averted, the Family is enjoying an Indian summer ...... - 17th May 2016

'Marking Time' - the opening scene has the family surrounding the radio, craving news, it is September 1939. The book continues to feel familiar as the the television series was very faithful to the books. In this volume the characters are scrutinised slightly more in-depth and we learn much more about their feelings. The intimate dialogue as if writing a diary or speaking to a close friend or even Clary still writing to her father (although she knows the letters will never be sent) draw one in as a privileged family friend. Some may think this describes 'voyeurism' but despite its intimacy it is a sympathetic rendering even though we do get to know everyone's secrets! The war impacts on all the family either physically or mentally and the anguish is very raw. New experiences for all the family members be it babies becoming characters in their own right, the former younger characters realising that life is going to change forever as far as they are concerned, the parenting generation taking all the responsibility on their own shoulders (excepting Edward of course) and the patriarchs realising that they are not only vulnerable but very mortal as well. We start seeing the demise of some of the cherished family members. The book covers the period of Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain and the realisation that worse is to come as the horrors of Russia and Pearl Harbour begin to emerge ........ 6th June 2016

'Confusion' - the opening scenes feature Polly's thoughts as she comes to terms with the death of her mother, whom all had believed to be in remission. This chapter of the saga takes us seamlessly into new territory leaving the television series behind - I wonder why the decision was made not to continue after reaching the midway mark. The book concentrates on the younger generation of the first two books who are now coming into their own and are starting out on their own. We don't lose sight of the adults of the original books but obviously much of what happens impacts on young and old alike. The brothers, with the exception of the missing Rupert, both have to give up their 'action man' hopes and revert to running the business as the founder, their father is now blind and unable to contribute. One of the beloved great-aunts also dies leaving her grieving sister to follow soon after. Relationships, old and new, gather apace. We are introduced to vibrant and not so vibrant characters who impact on the family tapestry and we endure two enormous shocks at the conclusion - one impacting on Rupert's wife with all the horrors of the concentration camps and the enormity of realising what it meant to be a Jew in Europe during WWII and the other also impacting Zoe as the final segment are the musings of Rupert ....... 17th June 2016

'Casting Off' - Clary stayed true to her father's memory and was rewarded by his return, not so Zoe who found herself mourning the death of her lover and being shocked back into reality by the return of her 'dead' husband Rupert. The book follows the lives of all the major characters and covers their response to the aftermath of the war and its impact on them. Unusual couplings (and possibly taboo subjects such as lesbianism, abortions, illegitimate conceptions, failed marriages resulting in multiple affairs) and unrequited love (on the edge of familial incest) all have their place openly in this book. Although 'Peyton Place' was the first to discuss overtly all these forbidden fruits, the Cazalets treats them less viciously, just as the paths of such a large family might naturally gravitate. This one does have a happy ending for Clary and Archie - 11th July 2016

'All Change' - opens 9 years after the conclusion of 'Casting Off' and the death of 'The Duchy' closing the patriarchal generation. And so it's farewell to the Cazalets who became part of my family these last few months whilst I have read their familiar story and then moved with them into unknown territory. Seeing the generations change as they themselves enter a new phase, welcoming new arrivals and additions to the family and waving farewell, inevitably to yet more of the family stock. Prior to starting the final novel I thought I would look up the author to see whether or not any of this was biographical and was not surprised to find that it was - what was a surprise however, was the fact that the final book (by no means a mopping up session) was written some considerable time after 'Casting Off' - more than the 9 years that has elapsed in the storyline. Inevitably 'Home Place' so nurtured and beloved by 'Brig' and the 'Duchy' and which has always played such a pivotal part in all their lives, has to be sold. This happens because of a error of judgement, it is owned by the Cazalet business company not by the family ..... as bankruptcy looms so the assets have to be sold off just to keep the family members afloat, except for Edward who forbore sharing the costs of its upkeep to cover the extravagance of his second wife, Diana and to provide some security for his loyal, discarded first wife, Villy. The style of the book is different, now we get short sharp 'windows' into the lives of each character preceded by their names whereas in the earlier books, we needed to work out who belonged to and was responsible for the opening dialogue. We are let down very gently whilst still being privy to all the family secrets - still full of surprises, the clever way in which the story is concluded with the 'parting of the ways' of the family, with the knowledge that all of them would care for each other in some way or another and Rachel realising she still had a very important function in the future of the family made the ending less devastating but not without feeling a very deep sense of loss - 25th July 2016

The Covert One Novels : 'The Patriot Attack', 'The Ares Decision', 'The Utopia Experiment' by Robert Ludlum and Kyle Mills

The Utopia Experiment - OK - so having re-read my reviews before starting on this third volume of the collaboration between Ludlum and Mills I was waiting to be disappointed. In fact the first few chapters confirmed that I wouldn't enjoy this book, but then it suddenly took off - maybe the computerised security antics of the mildly eccentric/insane Marty, whom I've missed in the Covert One novels - maybe the co-authors don't really know how to handle him because he is one hot potato merged with a rogue male - entirely believable. It's a clever concept and I sort of guessed what the downside would be but was only partially right and it never was explained if the gadget was still transmitting after the removal of the head from the body (I won't use the usual description as that is now sullied and province of the violence of 'the so-called XX' as the BBC would put it although I understand the D-word is the preferred insult but you won't find it in my website if you do a search!) Altogether an excellent and pacy read - September 2016

Another collaboration of the 'Covert One' characters created by Robert Ludlum. The Ares Decision is set in the Far East - China and Japan - which is not a theatre I enjoy at the best of times, but that aside, the concept of destructive nanobots (after having seen them at work in a sci-fi tv series) is very disturbing. As usual with John Smith being the central character the plot is intelligent and fast moving. I wasn't too convinced with the end, I'm not entirely sure it's advisable to play fast and loose with foreign powers leaders and their intentions and especially not their demise at the hands of the 'good guys'; the second slightly unconvincing area was the definitive destruction of the greedy little nanobots - a bit like the original concept of 'Day of the Triffids' the threat was controlled but not completely vanquished - the triffids had seeds that could go airborne - the nanobots could be swept away and into the atmosphere by the blast of the destructive weapon ....... April 2016

The Patriot Attack (good title) - A Covert One Novel - this is a series of collaborative novels based on characters and book plots devised by Robert Ludlum prior to his death and which are being released post mortem.
It seems an age since I started this book but the style was such that it was easy to pick up where I left off, irrespective of the time that had elapsed in between reading sessions. The whole is written in 'sound bytes' as if awaiting a film script with multiple scene changes which perhaps made it possible to assimilate a lot of information in small doses. I found this one a little too violent and graphic for comfort but it was an interesting read and I daresay Ludlum may have evolved his writing this way to accommodate the generation which plays computer games in preference to reading and the format of current action films - not worth a re-read I'm afraid, does not live up to its spunky title!) - 11th July 2013.

The Covert One Novels : 'The Janus Reprisal', 'The Geneva Strategy' by Robert Ludlum and Jamie Freveletti

The Geneva Strategy - Another highly enjoyable fast-action thriller moving apace at all times (you do need to hold your breath sometimes) - Jamie Freveletti once again makes good use of her combined love of the characters created by Robert Ludlum and her respect for this great author and the collaboration to continue the series, offered to her by the estate. It's a very updated Manchurian Candidate storyline and I've come to intensely dislike the whole concept of drones! My only tiny criticism is, that Colonel John Smith was introduced to us (many years ago) as approaching middle-age - he is decidedly a younger version of himself in this book. - March 2016

The Janus Reprisal - this continues the fast pace of its predecessors. This novel has been exceptionally well-written keeping true to the 'Covert One' operatives and their respective allies as originated by Robert Ludlum and using a very real and up-to-date scenario. At the end of the book (and I'm glad I did not see it earlier) the co-author/shadow writer Jamie Freveletti admits to being a bit Ludlum fan (as we readers are) and being thrilled at the opportunity of continuing his ideas. It is a heartfelt submission and makes the reading so much more pleasurable. Fast pace, good story-line, frightening subject matter, very up-to-date - enjoyable read - keep them coming! - August 2015

Before the Chalet School - 'The Bettanys: of Taverton High' 'On the Home Front' by Helen Barber

Two Chalet School Fill-Ins - set immediately before and at the start of the Great War, Madge and Dick are teenagers, Joey is still being pushed around in a pram and the Chalet School isn't even a twinkle in anyone's eye! In short, a prequel.

Taverton High - the first of two early prequels written by Helen Barber, both in her very high standard and meticulous attention to detail (probably more so than EBD herself!) - this prequel was written first and already has Madge as a very competent mature schoolgirl in the habit of thinking ahead, which puts it chronologically after the second pre(pre)quel so to appreciate both books this is worth a re-read after 'Home Front' - 2008/9

Home Front - A very early prequel it must be said, just as the 1914-18 conflict begins. This is a difficult book to make entertaining as it is pure speculation regarding the character-forming attributes of Madge Bettany whom we only ever knew as an adult. She is introduced to us as such in 'The School at the Chalet' which is the first of the 60+ Chalet School books that we have grown up with and love with a passion! However, having said that, this story does gather apace when dealing with the interaction between Madge and her siblings, and Madge and her school friends (familiar territory). It is only fair to add that I am not a mad keen exponent of WWI being too far removed from it and any knowledge of it other than that well reported incident - the massacre of the Romanovs. Having said that - I do wear my Poppy with pride every November. A good effort but deserves its place in the 'Before the Chalet School' category. - February 2016

'Cornelia of the Chalet School', 'Surprises for the Chalet School' by Jackie Roberts

The first of a trilogy centering on popular character Cornelia 'Corney' Flower, whose potential really was not realised by EBD in the long running series. This book, like several other in-fills, has not come under the umbrella of the 'Girls Gone By' publishing house. However, this is a genuine attempt in the spirit of EBD and incorporating the familiar and well-known leads of the original. It has a slight feel of 'happy ever after' but that does not detract from its content. It is well written, the characters are 'natural' in their feel and the subject of the holocaust is dealt with sensitively. Whereas I do not like 'holocaust fiction' it is of course integral to a major part of the Chalet School lore and in this book some areas, hitherto left unresolved, are offered an imaginative conclusion. There is also an impactful solution to one of EBD's 'Chalet School' failures (of which there are few and far between in the series). I half-guessed something was coming when a clue is given to the reader at the ship's Captain's dinner, but even I did not guess the identity/situation that would come from it - the solution (including the need to keep it secret as entrusted to Cornelia) is perfectly viable and I commend the author for her originality. Part of the book will appeal to the modern reader as the first experience of true 'heartbreak' is covered and most of us will relate to that particular emotion. All in all a good reading experience and I shall read the second part with pleasant anticipation - book 3 is in preparation. - July 2015

'Surprises' - once you get passed the appalling book cover which evokes nothing - this is a clever sequel to the first book following the events of Cornelia Flower (now van Alden), her husband Max, his sister Caroline and Max's pseudo-protegee Maartje. I was happy to speed up the last few chapters as there are clever plot resolutions as well as intriguing open-ended plots to carry through to the third and final part of this trilogy, which we are assured is 'in preparation.' Although occasionally lightweight this is a thoughtful representation of an under-used characters which caters to the modern 'miss' as well as us older devotees of the original! - July 2015

The Catherine Series by Juliette Benzoni : 'Catherine - 'One Love is Enough', 'Catherine', 'Belle Catherine', 'Catherine her Great Journey'

(I have started the first of these re-published books and am fascinated at how familiar but how different they are! My greatest disappointment at present is that there is a lot of 'vernacular' grammar which is spoiling the read for me. I have walked away from book one momentarily. I have now reached Book 3 which I have really warmed to).

'Catherine, her Great Journey' - I had to think of a title to describe my review of this book and I think, aptly, "Catherine earns her (Knight’s) spurs" is spot on! Originally the books' title was translated into 'Catherine and Arnaud' which was either laziness on the part of the translator or the publishers/editors - a book entitled thus would lead to an 'expectation' that the two title bearers might actually spend the majority of time at least in relative close proximity to each other .... Needless to say I digress, the most important feature that struck me whilst reading this fourth instalment of the re-published ‘Catherine’ series is that I became acutely aware that this is still set in the age of 'chivalry', which differs considerably from the adventures of Angélique (for instance). I usually try to avoid drawing comparisons between Catherine and Angélique wherever possible because of the divide between both sets of fans; but the court of Versailles is more brutally portrayed than the barren wastelands and divided kingdoms and dukedoms of the France of the time! The difference in attitudes over a 100 years or so is remarkable and quite honestly, I hadn't notice it prior to the recent re-issues. In this version Catherine is a ‘damsel’ and Arnaud is her 'knight' or vice versa if you prefer the romance of ‘Knights and their ladies’ but don’t get me wrong, this is decidedly no fairy tale with a happy ever after ending (or at least not yet).

Telos have taken an unprecedented step in researching the original book titles and coming up with ‘Catherine: Her Great Journey’. (Personally I think its a bit clumsy and Catherine's Great Journey would have been more in keeping with the 'modernisation' they told me they wanted to add to make the books more 'inclusive' for today's readers - you already know what I think about that - see Books 1&2 below). Anyway, and what a journey it is! In today’s parlance ‘journey’ is so overused when its meaning is only that of someone coming of age or experiencing a rite of passage or discovering something from an alternative point of view than their own and being surprised that they agree with it! Here we see Catherine transitioning from Shopkeepers’ daughter, Ducal plaything, Merchants’ unwilling wife to take up her rightful place as the Dame (Countess) of Montsalvy and being accepted as such by the male bastion in the absence of her husband. (Arnaud’s mother would now cede the title and become the Dowager Countess of Montsalvy on her son and heir’s marriage).

Now having said at the end of a previous review that I was beginning to warm to Arnaud, the conclusion of this book has me seething at him again. Yes, he misdiagnoses himself with leprosy perceiving it to be a mighty blow and legs it! The immediate consequence is that he rips apart everything Catherine has been so desperately fighting to repair and unite, causing unnecessary anguish leading to the eventual death of his mother. What is Arnaud? Knight or Knave? I am reminded of the saying ‘Faint heart never won fair lady’ and I apply this to Arnaud with a sigh of desperation in my head because he must be the most selfish man alive to allow his interminable pride to constantly rule his emotions! Bah humbug!

I cannot wait to see what Book 5 brings as, once again, all the new material present in the reprints adds to the glorious tapestry that is Juliette Benzoni’s ‘Catherine.’ - July 2017 (I read this volume between the dates of Anne Golon's death 14.07.2017 and her funerary mass at Versailles on 25.07.2017)

'Belle Catherine' - what a fabulous re-read this was! First of all the totally unnecessary vernacular was not present and it was good, clean, grammatical, entertaining story-telling of a much loved character and her adventures. Either my memory is failing big-time or there is quite a lot of new material which I had not seen previously as I have only read the first six books in English. The seventh book I have read in French and Polish but those languages have a different style and nuances so at this stage it is difficult to compare to the previous six other than to just follow the storyline to its conclusion. The real surprise in this new version of Belle Catherine is that I actually started warming to Arnaud, which must have been down to the additional information. If the next re-published books give us as much new information as this one, it will be worth the rather expensive investment. - July 2017

'Catherine' - the second book in the series. I will start by saying that although the appalling vernacular still reared its ugly head in this book, it didn't occur too frequently, although each time I came across an example I did react and as a result the pleasure of re-reading a much loved novel was spoiled (again). I have sent feedback to the publishers and they have assured me that they will not continue with the style in the remaining books - I wonder how many complaints they have actually had? Ah well - back to Catherine and her brush with Jeanne d'Arc. I wish there had been more about the Joan of Arc, but rather it was the fictional characters skirting around her existence rather then actually interacting with her - maybe too sacrilegious to write fiction about a saint? I am glad to have been reacquainted with the story as it is a good one and it is so long since I read the books the last time that much of the content seems new and fresh which is great! I don't like the cover of this one - seemingly a little sensationalism is now required to entice new readers, not unlike when the paperback of 'Angélique and the Ghosts' appeared. Looking forward to the next episode! - October 2015.

Some time has now elapsed and I have now completed 'One Love is Enough' - have tried to put the disappointment of the new 'vernacular' behind me and read the book for what it is, a really wonderfully written adventure. Not on the epic scale that 'Angélique' turned out to be and if is unfair to compare the two, although many do. I did send 'feedback' to the publishers on a number of areas that I thought were failing including the misuse of 'hung' for 'hanged' when referring to the death of a human being by this method. I was told that this had been in the 'original'. It is many years since I have read the original translations and was more than surprised that any reference was made to them, I had believed these to be 'clean' translations. The constant misuse of grammar used only in the North-West of England continued to fray my nerves.

Getting away from all that, I did enjoy reading the content and storyline of the first book and would never publicly denounce or decry it for the reasons the publishers, known only to themselves, introduced to make the books appear more 'up to date' - me, I think its dumbing them down if we must use modern vernacular. I will lend the originals to my friends - not these new ones - no amount of glossy covers with 'Catherine' resembling Scarlett Johanssen more that her own person will make up for the 'editing.' But, there do seem to be some new additions or it's so long ago that I've forgotten the minutiae. It is a big outlay to end up being disappointed and I am, but I will stress, only in the TREATMENT of the book, not its content. If I had brought the books to publication, I would have fought harder for a translation befitting that great author Juliette Benzoni. - October 2015

'The Roswell Conspiracy' by Boyd Morrison

A new author to me, Boyd Morrison, but he has written on a subject that has tempted me to give him a chance to show his skills. The opening chapter was certainly salivatingly interesting as it refers to 1918 and an attempt to rescue Tsar Nicholas and his family - now how, I wonder will that link into Roswell? (Review will follow shortly). Time for the review and what an incredibly disappointing book this turned out to be. It's a nice action-packed adventure, but the delving into the Romanov taster (and that is all it was) petered out and did not add anything new to the plot. This style of content was introduced and perfected by Robert Ludlum and this book had the pace but was not clever in obfuscating us into believing one thing and finding that the opposite was true. Good title, good taster but not worth re-reading or seeking out this author. May 2015

'Champion of the Chalet School' by Adrianne Fitzpatrick

Another Chalet School Fill-In which will attempt to fill in some of EBD's gaps. This book conveys the spirit of EBD (Elinor Brent-Dyer) successfully if a little mawkishly in places. The author does not dwell too much on EBDs central character Jo (Bettany) Maynard, although a timeline is established using the birth of Jo's third son, Michael. I consider it sensible for the in-fill authors not to try and second guess the adventures of the central characters too much! Jo and Robin's adventures in India (in another in-fill book) made sense as the groundwork was already there and a description of the life of the British families out there is well chronicled. All in all it was an enjoyable read giving the 'lead' to some of the more junior characters whom at this stage, EBD, would be preparing for their more senior duties in time. - March 2015

'Bring Up the Bodies' by Hilary Mantel

Book 2 of a projected Tudor trilogy, it is interesting that both this book and its predecessor 'Wolf Hall' (read but not reviewed here) won the Booker Prize in successive years. - I now know what I find peculiar and disorienting with this style of writing. There is no real written narrative to link the action or fill in the gaps if you prefer. There is dialogue between characters and thoughts by individuals which, for me, do not make a smooth transaction. Sometimes to pad out what is happening a character may 'think' the next step or a series of events happening around him or her which can be confusing at times.

- I've just reached the end of the book and as the author points out in her 'Author's Note' - this is all about Thomas Cromwell and everyone else, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, the courtiers etc. are just peripheral to his ambition. The third and final book in the trilogy will probably chronicle his fall from grace - I won't be in a hurry to read it, I'm afraid - August 2014

The Cat Who Series : Lilian Jackson Braun

We (Fb Cat Who Fan Club) are starting a Book Club based on LJBs books - how exciting is that. Preparing to start ....... The books will be read and listed chronologically:

- The Cat Who Turned On and Off - the Book Club certainly does make you delve into the meaning of the books in addition to the pleasure of reading them! I was delighted to re-visit this book again as it is my favourite even now and which was first reviewed when the death of LJB was confirmed (see below). All the sounds and smells and visual quirks of 'Junk Town' create a fabulous canvas of people and events. Even the weather makes the reader shiver whilst the various shenanigans are going on. The pipework in Qwills' abode has a life of its own and the introduction of a 'ghost' hardly seems far-fetched. All this is just to cover up the murderous intent amongst the dealers all of whom apparently have something to hide. An entertaining book and I'm pleased to have had the opportunity to read it again!

- The Cat Who Could Read Backwards - I didn't realise that a Book Club, if done seriously, puts you in a bit of a pressurised environment! It doesn't help that the only medium you can work in is Facebook and that global timings are more than challenging. As the only Brit participating, I have to do the midnight to 2am run as most of the North American club members favour late afternoon-early evening sessions. Australia is 11 hours either side of the UK making mornings their enforced time slots! We also made the mistake of having the first discussion on a Friday which is a pressurised time on the internet at the best of times! Learning quickly from our mistakes we moved to Wednesdays for subsequent discussions. It was a pleasure to re-read this book, it felt rather like the first time as there are numerous books in the series so only faint shadows of the earlier books remain. It was nice to re-acquaint myself with the original characters and as the 'artist' of the group, I was amazed at how visually stimulating the writing is, something that on first reading passed me by. There is also a deal of acerbic humour which fits neatly into the context of 'one man and his cat!' - May 2013

- The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern - the title refers to an upholstery style (takes a while to appreciate that - I kept thinking Danish pastries!) As we begin to learn and appreciate the regulars more we have to start concentrating on the plot and new characters, which at times can stretch your imagination and concentration to the limit. Lots of laughs and pathos in this book with both emotions referring to the cats! The truly terrifying prospect of a human being trying to emulate a cats agility springing from balcony to balcony over a considerable distance is tempered only by the fact that the character is 'loosy-goosey' thanks to large quantities of imbibed alcohol! It is also extremely funny! Animal cruelty is touched on leaving us with no sympathy for the 'perp'! All in all a very enjoyable re-read. - July 2014

- The Cat Who Saw Red - regrettably our discussion group failed due to the logistics of members being scattered worldwide and certainly in my case, starting a suspect internet facility (Fb) at midnight leads to frustration on top of tiredness. It's a terrible shame, but at least this way I will at last re-read the series in between new books. Again, unfortunately, I ended up reading this book in small bites quite far apart (luckily it is easy to re-cap) and then was able to complete it in two large chunks. Poor Qwill was transported back to his memories of a lost love, only to lose her almost as quickly as he had found her again, on top of that he grieves for the loss of his two companions having been erroneously told, they too had shed their mortal coils (this in addition to a former feline incumbent of his new lodgings) and to cap it all, even before the action starts, Qwilleran has been put on a diet for his own health and is then mortified to learn that he has been assigned the new gourmand editorial. LJB likes to place her characters in conflicting situations! The circumstances of his latest accommodation combine to re-awaken the sleuth in Qwill and although, in general, there is no happy ending, there is in fact a satisfactory conclusion. I enjoyed re-reading this once more but must try not to delve into another re-read before at least reading six new books! - February 2016

The Cat Who Series by Lilian Jackson Braun : 'The Cat Who Turned On and Off'

- I've chosen to re-read 'The Cat Who Turned on and off ' now (June 2011) in deference to the news that the author of the 'Cat Who' series, Lilian Jackson Braun, died earlier this month. This was always my favourite book of the series, when Quill moved to 'Junk Town.' I look forward to the re-read.

- This was so much fun to re-read, I may make it a feature in my favourite books page simply because it was such a joy to read something, simple, entertaining, uncomplicated, familiar, funny, thought-provoking, unashamedly paying homage to the feline species and set in Junk Town - what a beautifully evocative description of the Antique Dealers world - reminds me of when I used to visit the junk yards in Derby and near the railway station in Nottingham in search of 'Props' (properties) for my work and fun stuff for my home. My brass bedstead is from a junkyard in Derby and cost £5 in the late 1970s. - June 2011

'Inferno' by Dan Brown

A stand alone novel much in the style of Robert Ludlum - I had stopped enjoying his style after 'The Lost Symbol' it seemed to lack imagination; but he has come back refreshed and with a very clever plot. I did actually guess the 'twist' just prior to it being revealed so that is a great plus in his favour that he kept my interest right up to that point and then the conclusion was fitting (I nearly used 'appropriate' at this juncture, but as I think that and 'inappropriate' are two words I would like to see banned I can't really use them can I? and retain credibility that is!) to the standard of the rest of the novel. Worth a re-read! - April 2014

'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak

Holocaust Fiction for Young Adults (YA) - had I but known .... however, having started the book without this knowledge, until I read the 'reviews', I decided I would give it a try. Holocaust Fiction is not a favourite literary subject of mine, but never let it be said I discriminate against genres - this is my third foray into this type of fiction; the first being 'The Boy in Striped Pyjamas' and the second 'The Silver Sword' by Ian Serraillier (albeit, giving it its due, this book is loosely based on real occurrences see reviews below). In my mind, these books which were my introduction to Holocaust fiction were unsuccessful in capturing my whole-hearted interest. However, to return to this novel - I bought the book after seeing a trailer for the film of the same name due to be released this year (2014), and it was also the last book I completed reading in 2013 on New Year's Eve. The style, at first, is very difficult and verges on posturing - happily I have an appreciation, understanding and education in the use of colour so am better equipped than most to envisage what the author is attempting to convey. For YA I suppose it is a mechanism that is more familiar to them as they commit to computer/television/app/digital and android screens rather than the written word! The nature and identity of the narrator is given away right at the start (in case we did not realise who it was) and in due time the story telling begins and the pretentious and posturing language streams into good, well structured grammatical narrative. Every so often we are subjected to a return to the bizarre and completely unnecessary imagery, but by then it is as inconsequential as swatting a fly. The story evolves around an abandoned (rather than fully orphaned) girl not yet in her teens, her foster parents, her peers and Max. The storyline attempts to convey some of the horror of the second world war as it impacted on Germany. I found I had no sympathy for any of the characters despite the foster parents not falling into the 'wicked step-parent' category nor for the surviving son of a neighbouring family who returns from Russia and commits suicide. I think these were attempts by the author to show a 'normality' and 'humanity' from the point of view of the 'ordinary (enemy) townsfolk'. Mayhap my review is a little harsh but I think Holocaust Fiction is WRONG, there are far too many real untold stories out there and they are untold for a reason, it all HURTS too much and individuals do not wish to have to launder their experiences in public. Is Holocaust Fiction a genre that should be allowed to exploit the truth? Why should the pill be sweetened? If a YA wants to read 'The Book Thief' or 'The Boy in Striped Pyjamas' - why not visit the websites of Oświęcim (Auschwitz) and Dachau first and then read first hand experiences such as found in sites like Yad Vashem? - I wonder what the author's motivation was to write this book - I'll not be re-reading it or even keeping it in the house - December 2013

'Chalet School World' by Helen Barber

"How did Joey Bettany get on at school on her very first day at Taverton High?  Why did Dick Bettany take up work with the Forestry in India instead of following his father into the Army?  Who helped Sybil Russell develop into a responsible young woman, after the shock of Josette’s accident?  Did Grizel Cochrane ever come to terms with the failure of her teaching career?  These and many other questions find answers in Helen Barber’s delightful set of short stories, all set in and around the world of the Chalet School. In the course of this book, Helen clearly demonstrates how the values shared by the Bettany family permeate the School which they founded, and constantly ripple out into the wider world inhabited by its pupils, old and new.  Christmas with the Bettanys—high jinks in the dormitory—an unwise game during prep—a visit to the school dentist—this rich mixture of family stories and school stories spans the whole spectrum of the Chalet School and before, and leaves the reader with a real sense of having once again inhabited the Chalet School world. All stories in this book are completely new, written especially for this collection."

I have now read these short stories and whereas I usually like someone else's ideas of what may have been - this seems to almost smart of desperation to fill in the gaps. Nothing here inspired me, but it is an interesting exercise - January 2014

'Heresy', 'Prophecy', 'Sacrilege' 'Treachery' and 'Conspiracy' by S.J. Parris

- Sacrilege OK I'm going to have to eat my words here because book 3 is an absolute stunner from beginning to end. I was in thrall to this book, only once did it have a small let-down but nothing significant. The characters have grown in stature and been rounded off, Bruno is finally his own man and off he goes to Canterbury to see if he can solve a murder and finds himself embroiled in some 'miraculous' plots involving the martyred Thomas a Becket. As I came to the end of this storyline it was apparent that there was much unfinished business, despite my having believed that this was a trilogy. I am delighted to say I have found and bought two more in the series which I shall be reading more speedily than I did books 1 and 2. As there was a two year wait between books 4 and 5 I think I'm very lucky as I can now read them a lot more speedily - it also looks as if Book 6 is due an appearance next year (2018) - February 2017

- Prophecy - This time I enjoyed the book from the beginning, our central character Bruno is an engaging character and I do miss Shardlake, but this is a worthy successor as Shardlake knocked about in Henry VIIIs court and was championed by Katherine Parr whereas Bruno is in the thick of the Golden Age of Elizabeth and her rivalry and subsequent unwilling decision to execute her cousin, the anointed Queen of Scots. This particular book ends with the subjugation of one plot but with the main perpetrator still at large. This is an enjoyable read - 10th August 2016

- Heresy has been a long time in reading. I started this over 12 months ago when in hospital and somehow I just wasn't bothered about finishing it until a couple of months ago. I re-read the chapters I had read previously and found the style easy enough to read but the content was convoluted. Once the author seemed to ease into the required 'gear' the experience became more enjoyable and is reminiscent of C J Sansom's Shardlake (without the sidekick). This trilogy, however is set in Elizabethan England under the aegis of that leader is spy diplomacy Sir Francis Walsingham. I hope to read the two succeeding books with more enthusiasm and in a speedier manner. - December 2013

'Titanic - The Tennis Story' by Lindsay Gibbs

A remarkable account of a real biographical incident written in very easy-to-read novel format. I had expected to read another biographical history such as 'A Terrible Splendour', which was excellent but written with no graphic detail held back. Although the circumstances of the Titanic Tennis Story are no less grim, the presentation made it easier to digest without any loss of emotion. A remarkable history of two protagonists thrown together in one of the most famous and infamously recorded incidents, used as a backdrop to any number of fictional stories (take 'Downton Abbey' as an example) but no less 'stranger than fiction' for all that! Two people, who knew of each other only fleetingly, before being thrown together for several days in exceptional circumstances. One brought the other back to fitness and sanity and yet both suffered years of 'survivor' guilt before finally accepting what had happened to them and taking control of their lives. As a result of this acceptance they went on to remain lifelong friends. This book is recommended to everyone and especially those with particular interest in tennis and/or the events that took place in the Atlantic Ocean on a 'night to be remembered.' - August 2013

'The Murder of the Romanovs' by Andrew Cook

What new information or evidence could there possibly be? This book is a revelation and a minefield of new information and at some point I shall be re-reading it as I'm not sure I took everything in so exciting was the content of new evidence. Much, hitherto constricted by timeframes, official government paperwork and many reports (some of them written as personal accounts) have finally been released and form the basis of this resumé and consequent re-writing of events. I was astonished to find that of the wealth of photographs which make up about a quarter of the size of the books I had only actually seen two of them previously, everything else was new! Fascinating facts such as no beds for the Grand Duchesses when they were first dumped in Ekaterinburg to a pre-war visit by the Tsar and his family to UK where for security reasons he was not allowed to leave the confines of his yacht and set foot on British soil; despite stating how impressed he was with the Royal Navy and the protection it afforded saying that 'this was the way a Navy should be deployed.' Two extremes of new information and loads more in between. Despite its appalling conclusion, this is one of the best reads for this incident that I have been immersed in for a long time - highly recommended! - August 2013

'A Touch of Dead' by Charlaine Harris

This is a compilation of short stories which is why I am keeping it separate to the series although these stories are in fact in-fills giving a little more detail to some areas which may have been glossed over in the main series of books (I suspect the author was getting a bit bored herself!) The first two (I have only read three so far) are excellent, the quality of the third dips a little but I am enjoying the read. I've now caught up with the 4th and final 5th story and the final one has a nice unexpected twist - July 2013

'The Queen's Governess', 'Shakespeare's Mistress', 'The Queen's Confidante' by Karen Harper

- 'The Queen's Confidante' - early Tudor novel (Henry VII and Elizabeth) written in the first person imagining the thoughts of the confidante and the queen herself. Written in the first person in pseudo-Tudor prose (which I hate) the author later makes the sin of mixing modern idiom into the prose which I think indicates that she was out of her depth or had not thought through how a certain idea might be expanded by Tudor standards of language. The book started off promisingly in the male-orientated chandlery business of the times then presumed too much to know what a royal historical character might be thinking. Gathered pace as a romance, failed miserably as a thriller and had a horribly weak ‘happy ever after’ ending. - April 2016

- 'Shakespeare's Mistress', the second, but not linked, book set in the Tudor/Elizabethan period seen through the eyes (and first person singular) of William Shakespeare's purported first love (and unconfirmed 'wife') of italianate heritage. As the 'marriage' was not witnessed, when Shakespeare was 'railroaded' into a gun-shot wedding with Anne Hathaway, there was no legal impediment to stop the course of history! Some fanciful but not terribly imaginative use of Shakespeare's sonnets and key quotations are the basis of this novel. Although a notch above YA fiction, I ask myself if this is the only way youngsters of today find a historical novel palatable, if it is written (as both of these are) in the first person singular so that they can imagine themselves as the heroine? Goodness, imagine being Angélique! - February 2014

- As 'The Queen's Governess' is a Tudor novel I am in my 'comfort' zone but with a new author. The start boded well, then I felt I was in Young Adult fiction again, but this passed and as I near the conclusion of the book I find it a whole lot more interesting. This book is from the viewpoint of 'Kat' Ashley, Elizabeth I's ever constant companion and sometime nurse and starts with the execution of Elizabeth's mother Anne Boleyn to her accession to the throne and all the inherent dangers that in itself brought with it. The book ends at the height of Elizabeth's reign following her recovery from the pox when she is in her ascendancy and most powerful. The author completes the book with some key historical facts of the period in the form of an appendix. - March 2013

'The Müller Twins at the Chalet School' and 'Juniors at the Chalet School' by Katherine Bruce

Juniors - This book is the first to have been completed in this new year (looks as if it is habit-forming see review below). It's an engaging little story and Katherine Bruce has been restored to her place as a proficient and entertaining writer. There is a bit of mawkishness where the 'Juniors' are concerned but happily it is left behind early on and the action and adventures are true to EBDs 'mission' (if she ever had one). This book runs directly parallel to 'Princess of the Chalet School' and made me hanker after reading that book again after all this time but that will have to wait until GGB complete their entire re-print of the series without the missing bits (their Intégrale if you please). - January 2017

Twins - I'm wondering if this may be an in-fill too far - it is fairly apparent that the authoress is trying very hard to come up with a hitherto unknown relationship between the twins which can then be married up to the original material by EBD. This is the first book I have completed in the year 2013 and it hasn't been an unqualified success - usually I would 'devour' (awful word) the latest in-fill. - January 2013

'The J M Barrie Ladies Swimming Society' by Barbara J Zwitner

- This is essentially a love story with a happy ending. I liked the first chapter as an animal referred to as 'Tink' made an appearance. Unlike our own Tinkerbell who is a pussy-cat this was a dog (a rescue of course). The owner is a single lady who lives in New York and works for a design company. In a set of fortuitous circumstances for her (not the person she replaces) she finds herself in charge of a project renovating and re-designating a former residence of JMBs' and that is where the tenuous connection ends. I bought this book on ebay for next to nothing and have recycled it via my favourite charity - it has no place in my home for a re-read, but it is entertaining enough but I might have hoped for a more original ending. - November 2012.

'Tied Up with Notts' by Colin Slater

- Notts. County is a subject very close to Andrew's heart but as he asked me to read it I did so willingly and with interest. It is a chronological study of events concerning Notts. County as witnessed by the author Colin Slater. To start with, unfamiliar with the time frame covered I found it a little onerous - but as I reached the time period that I shared the events with Andrew as they were happening I reached my comfort zone. I did find some titbits of interest I had not know previously and that made it more interesting reading. Recommended for fans of Notts. County and football historians! - November 2012

'The War Guest' by Irene Shubik

- What an incredible find! I worked with Irene Shubik at the BBC in the mid-1970s, currently more remembered for the recent unearthing of the Jimmy Savile scandals than for more worthy endeavours, in the elitist Drama Plays. It cannot be said that Irene and I developed any affection for each other but we grew into an 'understanding' of sorts. The picture on the front of this thinly disguised fictional biography could have been Irene herself and the content as self-deprecating and depressing as the woman herself. However, it is beautifully written, Irene wasn't a script editor prior to becoming a producer (quite a feat for a woman in those days) for nothing and was a pleasure to read just for that one observation! On reading the final sentence I suddenly realised that this particular comment was her raison d'être in which case, the sad woman I knew was somehow very real and explained her oft brusque and untouchable character. - October 2012.

'Major Benjy', 'Lucia on Holiday' and 'Au Reservoir' by Guy Fraser Sampson

- OMG - seriously, OMG! I was caught out, I had ab-so-lu-te-ly no inkling as to how this series would end (SPOILER ALERT coming up) - GFS actually allows the indomitable Lucia to die (first of the coterie) and then concludes the book with the demise/fate of all the other characters! Mister Georgie comes into his own in this book and the chapter which ends with the words 'She was in the bath' had me chuckling for hours. It has been a great ride following these hitherto unknown adventures of our heroes and villains and it is a shame that it's all over! - June 2014

- What happened? Did the author forget to write the last chapter? This is an extremely funny book despite Lucia being over-waspish, Olga over-loud and Mapp under-written. I was rather afraid that Lucia was going to come to a sticky end (financially) but instead she proved to be the catalyst for something completely unexpected and a potential villain turned out, happily not to contribute to her downfall. Some delicious original twists and turns left the Mapp-Flints underused and devalued, they did not deserve this - sounds like I didn't like the book? Not at all it was delicious and very clever but, it did need a slightly less abrupt end (unless it continues in the third of the trilogy which would make a mockery of the previously stand alone novels). And what about Georgie, beloved by all - he was one of the 'prominente' in the book but ended up only playing a supportive role however frequently he was present in all the embroilings - this book will be worth a re-read when all three are published - August 2013

- Another fan of E F Benson who obviously took great delight in reading his caricature of a certain coterie of status seeking 1930s vamps immortalised in Mapp and Lucia. He offers us a trilogy of follow-ups (the third is yet to be written) and Major Benjy is the first of the three. It is a fun read and the characters are captured beautifully - I am sure he had as much fun writing Major Benjy and placing him in the usual ridiculous situations from which he had to be extricated as I had reading and closet participating in his discomfiture. Well done Guy, I look forward to Book 2 which is waiting to be read and the eventual publication of Book 3. - October 2012

'The King's Concubine' by Anne O'Brien

- This book was kindly given to me by a friend when she came to visit me in hospital. I had already heard the term YA Fiction and eventually learned that the acronym stood for 'Young Adult'. This is definitely a book written in YA style - it is easy to read and the grammar is well constructed but it is inferior to the great historical writers, obviously deliberately but so 'dumbed down' as to be embarrassing. However, as I was just coming out of a prolonged illness, it was, perhaps the best style to read to get me going again - I had not picked up a book for 4 weeks prior to this. Although set in a real historical situation the ideas are 21st century and very unlikely to have been adopted by the royals concerned. - September 2012

'The Tainted Relic' by The Medieval Murderers

- And tainted it was! This started off as an intriguing read but half-way along it was already too long and 500 pages is way, way too long (with apologies for the use of modern idiom). Having said that, the epilogue was imaginative and left the door open for another ten centuries worth of tainted intrigue if anybody could be bothered; or maybe it could have formed part of a time capsule to be found by some future, unsuspecting aliens! I objected to the final victim being a Pole from Cracow (when will they learn to write Kraków properly, when, indeed will they learn to pronounce it properly - you've only got a Pope and a female No. 2 world tennis player from there after all .......) I digress - I objected to the choice of nationality because it seemed to me to smack of a certain type of discrimination that has surrounded hard-working, mostly Roman Catholic, Poles who have come over to the UK under the EU directive of the 'Freedom of Movement of Workers' to earn a decent living; we would all like that opportunity, would we not given the chance? - July 2012

'Star Trek Memories' by William Shatner

I have to say that this was a thoroughly enjoyable book - I was a bit afraid that it might turn out to be the "great I am" but Shatner does pull the reins in and writes about 'Star Trek - the original television series' and draws on, not only his own personal experiences (which could have made it the great "I am"), but those of the creator Gene Roddenberry, his co-stars, writers and the production crew at every level. It has given me a greater insight into a series I revered many decades ago and which Andrew and I are now currently enjoying again thanks to a cable station re-run. As with all things that come to an end there was a tinge of sadness and regret on reaching the penultimate section and then the epilogue which, unusually instead of ending on a high, ended on the worst kind of 'low' - Roddenberry had washed his hands of the series as he could not come to terms with the changes being demanded of his original concept by the corporate backers and the actors felt that the tone of the scripts had degenerated and did not reflect the ethos of their original characters. The epilogue also allows, diplomatically for Shatner to be gently berated by his co-stars for the difficult time he had given them when they were working together, but Doohan would not compromise and so the feud continues and Shatner still awaits a call .... maybe from outer space now that Doohans ashes have been scattered. - July 2o12

The Mayan Trilogy : 'The Mayan Prophecy', 'The Mayan Resurrection', 'The Mayan Destiny' and (wonder of wonders a fourth) 'Phobos - Mayan Fear' by Steve Alten

Mayan Trilogy Book 4 PhobosBook 4 - ha! ha! yes, this trilogy is going to add a fourth book to itself. I notice FanFiction doesn't understand the concept of a fourth book in a trilogy as they actually refer to it as the third book in the 'Domain Series' whatever that is! And whereas I welcomed enormously the fourth and fifth books (which were also a surprise) from the S J Parris stable, the original books were never touted as a trilogy - so have no argument with their expansion into a series which I am thoroughly enjoying. Back to this 'Phobos - Mayan Fear' by his own admission the author is fearful of the 2012 Prophecy and the damage the 'Colliders' can do (and may be doing to us now - his words not mine) - here's what he writes on his own website about the new book which nothing on this planet will incentivise me to read '2012 Is the Mayan doomsday prophecy real? For two thousand years, the Mayan Calendar has prophesied the end of mankind on a date equating to December 21st, 2012. As the date approaches, greed, corruption, economic collapse, and violence seem to be pushing our species to the predicted brink of disaster. But there is another Doomsday threat looming in our near future, a very real threat that can wipe-out not only humanity but our entire planet. As you read this preview, a team of physicists in Geneva are using a $10 billion science experiment to smash atoms together at near light speed, hoping to re-create the Big Bang in their ego-driven search for the Higgs Boson — the God particle — ignoring the fact that these collisions give birth to stranglets – miniature black holes, any one of which can escape into our universe and grow. Best-selling author Steve Alten’’s third book in the Mayan Prophecy series is a doomsday rollercoaster ride of adventure that follows Immanuel Gabriel, the surviving Hero Twin depicted in the Popol Vuh, as he takes us to the end of the world and back again for one last shot at salvation and a chance meeting with his deceased grandfather, archaeologist Julius Gabriel. In the process Julius reveals everything the Mayans knew and feared –– from the very secrets of creation that predates the Big Bang to the existence of extraterrestrials that have come to Earth to save our species. The universe is not what it seems, nor is human existence, and that this ticking clock of physicality that begins at conception and terminates with our final breath is neither the end nor the beginning, but an elaborate ruse constructed as a test. And we are failing miserably.' Anyway, I reckon the proof of the pudding is in the eating - this book was written in 2012 and there is only one 4* review consisting of the following three words 'not that good'. The author also has a section on his website called 'Writing Tips' maybe he should visit there sometime and remember that he should consider his readers fools. - 22nd August 2017

Book 3 'Destiny' - yes, it really has taken me four years to pluck up to read the conclusion (I can only be grateful that in the intervening years the second trilogy hasn't popped up out of nowhere) not because I have been 'saving myself' to read it because I can't bear getting to a conclusion, but simply because I will not throw away or recycle a book before I have read it to its conclusion! I am now 150 pages into a book of nearly 600 so a quarter of the way in, which doesn't say much. I like the chapters and notices that refer to real-time quotations or space travel history, I don't like the nonsensical Aztec-like, Mayan Calendar, science-fiction aspects not the ever present and worrying trend that somehow 'white hair and blue eyes' point to some sort of superiority (ok elongated faces too!). Let's face it I was sold a pup buying these three together, but I will finish it, you never know I might be pleasantly surprised! (Some days later) - well I wasn't! Pleasantly surprised that is - by page 300 this novel could have concluded - full stop, no more, but no; this author doesn't know when to give up! We get swept back to 'sort of' present day and for 50 pages or so it is good explanatory narrative, as a novel should be written and then back we go to the Nexus and the 11th Dimension (or not as our hero/anti-hero shouldn't be able to enter it) and we meet those born and yet not conceived and other impregnated ... for what reason? To start it all off again with those catastrophically and portentously hysterically shrieked words telling us that it's not over yet and that the trilogy has acquired a fourth volume! - August 2017

Book 2 'Resurrection' - not sure whether this is science fiction or science fantasy - either way it still does not sit easily with me. When the storyline stayed in story telling narrative style it was quite good and an easy read (in fact after the first few chapters I read the rest of the 600+ pages in two chunks and enjoyed myself) but when it went into 'the realms of fantasy' I did feel a bit like supercilious Captain Mainwaring from 'Dad's Army'. In the end I decided it was 'The Blind Assassin' (groan) meets 'Rosemary's Baby' (not the original fantastic cult movie starring Mia Farrow - but the substandard sequel) meets 'The Fountain' an appalling film starring Hugh Jackman. The events of Book 2 bring us right back to the beginning of creation (Adam and Eve) and deposit us back in time at the moment the earth is about to be annihilated by being plunged into another ice age of darkness on the magnitude of the original disaster that wiped out the dinosaurs. Book 3 will take us down an alternative future ..... - July 2013

Book 1 'Prophecy' - OMG its a Sci-fi book, my first and I would like to say my last, but, as I have already bought the trilogy (for a fiver) I am determined to eventually read it to its conclusion. It started well enough and I was sucked into the 'Wisdom's Daughter' (Haggard) school of thought - the whole Mayan and Nazca etchings mystery was fabulous and the suddenly these mechanical beasties started making their appearance heralded by black sludge .... ah well, I'm not sure if I should congratulate myself on having achieved my first sci-fi reading experience or bemoan (again) the lack of good literature these days. Von Daniken meets "Independence Day" it has the makings of a classic 1950s B-movie with sequels. I don't really mean to denigrate, it's just not my cup of tea! - June 2012

The Payne and Jones Collaboration : 'The Plantation', 'The Sign of the Cross', 'Sword of God', 'The Lost Throne', 'The Prophecy', 'The Secret Crown', 'Death Relic', 'The Einstein Pursuit' by Chris Kuzneski

- The Plantation - Wow! What a first book! Actually to tell the truth I'm glad I read some of the other Payne and Jones adventures first as this book does err on the side of brutality a bit. Having said that I hasten to add it is not gratuitous and is based on recorded behaviour by former Plantation owners prior to the American Civil War; (and probably a good time afterwards if they thought they could get away with it!) It was wonderful to travel back to New Orleans in my mind's eye and enjoy every part of the swamp decor outside of the brutality. An impactful book, which I took with me to read whilst waiting for my hospital appointment - I didn't mind having to wait as I got 77 glorious pages in before the called me which gave me a great sense of what was to come. Kuzneski says this is his favourite - I can see why, but I look forward to reading the ones I still have on the pile waiting to be read amongst all the others that are still there! - May 2012

- The Sign of the Cross - a Wonderful Vatican thriller - just my sort of genre, I held my breath until the very end and it did have a proper ending thank goodness! I also guessed a red herring but was diverted and then had a nice smug grin on my face when I realised I had guessed correctly in the first place (should have held on to that thought just as I always kept faith with Snape - more because he was played by Rickman than the character of Snape - so, call me fickle!) even though I was then thrown off the track very cleverly. - July 2011

(This author sounds as if he writes the sort of fictional thrillers that I enjoy, covering conspiracies in the Vatican, legends proving to be fact, action adventures in the style of Indiana Jones and Dan Brown - so I'm giving him a go. Although there is a book called 'The Plantation' which is the first in the chronological order, it has taken time to be published in the UK so I'm starting with the second. I gather these are self-contained stories but featuring the same characters.)

- Sword of God - Not a Vatican thriller this time - but based on another religion - that of Islam. I didn't find this anywhere near as exciting as 'The Sign of the Cross' and it became a little formulaic but the characters of Payne and Jones are so engaging that it was worth the read (once!). I must read the very first book to find out a bit more about these two and the 'M.A.N.I.A.C.S.' which shaped their very interesting personal interaction. - August 2011

- The Lost Throne - It was a treasure hunt! But it was fun and it involved the Spartans and the Orthodox churches in Greece and Russia. Fast paced and held my interest until the conclusion! - October 2011

- The Prophecy - The relationship between Payne and Jones is really easy and makes for very entertaining reading. I was swept away like a surfer riding a wave as this book is so fast paced - but easy to read. Another alliteration is deserved because I did feel as if I was on a slide rushing to get to the conclusion (might have had something to do with the wintery and slippery conditions I was reading about at the time I suppose ;-)!)- Kuzneski provides a fantastic build up and, as always, a clever ending making you think - is it actually a conclusion? Good hokum and worth a re-read any time. - December 2011

- The Secret Crown - Another Treasure hunt - set this time in Bavaria in the realm of poor mad King Ludwig - he of the Disney-style castles (in fact Disney based Aurora's castle on Ludwig's Neuschwanstein). A really enjoyable read, not least because of the relationship between Payne and Jones moving it along at speed. The books descriptions brought real life scenes to the forefront of my imagination. - April 2012

- Death Relic - This is another Payne and Jones adventure but I wonder if it is the last - there is still some interaction but it isn't great and the storyline is a little tired. Set predominantly in Mexico but has none of vibrance of that colourful part of the year. The author has a new book out not featuring these two, I wonder if that is a clue that he is tiring of them? - November 2012

- The Einstein Pursuit has been published so my comments in my original paragraph above do not reflect the author's intentions (obviously) - I have now read the latest Payne and Jones adventure and it moves at a rattling pace it has to be said and mirrors Robert Ludlum's style. Having said I thought the author was tiring of his heroes, I don't think the interaction has improved since 'Death Relic' it still seems tired and contrived. Introducing more focus on the other characters in the book seems to have breathed new life into the whole. The concept of using domestic animals in experimentation is disturbing and I found those passages difficult but Kuzneski treats them with dignity and keeps that subject area to a minimum. - July 2014

'The Janson Command' and 'The Janson Option' by Robert Ludlum and Paul Garrison/'The Janson Equation' by Robert Ludlum and Douglas Corleone and 'The Janson Directive' by Robert Ludlum

The Janson Directive -

The Janson Equation - Published in 2015 but with my usual tardiness it's taken me a little while to catch up. I didn't read the synopsis (I never do, if there is Ludlum input then I'm sold!) and was taken by surprise to find the action set in Korea. Not the location as such but the timing of reading the book when suddenly in the latter part of 2017 Korea is in the News shooting missiles off right left and centre and upsetting POTUS and Japan. The action of the book brings the team of Janson and Kincaid as they become embroiled in several different strands of a seemingly complicated murder of a Korean national by her American Senator's son boyfriend who has vanished from the surface of the planet. From that point the strands needless to say become more than complex involving cyber space, knife edge diplomatic negotiations, conscience pricking, mega-betrayals, a few murders, assassinations and the inevitable 'falling on one's sword' or 'popping a cyanide pill' guilt! Refreshingly we meet a new type of heroine who may or may not feature in the future books, but Cats Paw has a new asset who is only 13 years old. The bond between Janson and Kincaid strengthens and is very believable. An enjoyable read (apart from some of the grizzlier bits) - October 2017

The Janson Option - This episode is the next in what I popularly believed was the natural sequel, but on looking further there now seems to be a complete series in a wake and I need to catch up on my reading. So this is a Cons Op Novel featuring a two-person team who are romantically, or about to be romantically involved as well as a being a trained team with various strings to their bows. The main theme is a standard 'pirate kidnap' for ransom or maybe a hidden agenda. The dustjacket resume indicates that the kidnap may have to be shelved for a greater plotline which I had difficulty differentiating. All in all it is a fast paced adventure, again, split into various scenarios which could work as a film script. In view of the recent terrorist attacks on the UK (Manchester and London in May/June 2017) some of the content of the book is difficult to read without being reminded of reality. As there are more books in the series which I already have in my possession I will review them more deeply as I read them - June 2017

The Janson Command - OK - so this is a follow-up book to the original Paul Janson character (and apparently Paul Garrison is writing a second follow-up). I've always enjoyed the teamwork, particularly the bringing together of co-workers in the Covert One novels, but this is not part of that series and is just a two-man (strictly speaking two-person as one is a female) team and I have to say that I was confused from start to finish. Just as I thought I knew where I was with this book it change tack - usually involving a change of location or characters and then randomly returned - I think this is a potential film script? Anyway at the end of the book in a footnote the author admits to being a big fan of Robert Ludlums' and that the original Janson character demanded a sequel - so he wrote it - not very well. Paul Janson cloned into Jon Smith ..... - the story is well written, except it isn't cohesive, I shall have to really persuade myself or get an excellent bargain if I am to continue with this series. For some reason, I have chosen to re-read this book and it makes more sense now, there are three more which have appeared in the intervening years - May 2012 and December 2016

'The Chalet School and Robin' by Caroline German

It was a nice re-read although at times it felt as if the author was straining to keep within the style of EBD writing - she finally let leash and did a 're-cap' with the character of Robin in the final chapter. This is a very modern training method and not something that EBD infused into her writing - the author salvages the 'modernity' by letting Robin bite back and point out to Jo that the feedback interrogation had set her mind racing and as a consequence she was unable to sleep well that particular night. In a way I'm pleased that the modern method received a mild criticism. It was good to revisit this book as I am not as familiar with it as the original series which I read many times over. - April 2012

'The King's Diamond' by Will Whitaker

A jeweller in the court of Henry VIII, Charles V and the Medici Pope ...... well that was the build up to this book. Very little happens in the court of Henry VIII but during the course of the action the hero meets up with a Renaissance artist - Cellini - who falls into my area of History of Art expertise, so that, was the only redeeming factor in this book which is indeed YA (Young Adult) writing and reading. Throughout there seemed to be a lack of substance, but in the end it was an enjoyable romp (with a touch of gravitas, dealing with the more unsavoury aspects of the sacking of Rome, right at the end) but equally it is one I am happy not to dwell on or overthink. Anything to get YA reading and interested into some era that did not rely on technology must be a good thing! - May 2012

'A Terrible Splendour' by Marshall John Fisher

"Gottfried von Cramm - the biography of the persecution years." - I took my time reading this book and put it aside in the "5th Set" to try and assimilate all that I had read. I had heard of von Cramm (what tennis fan hasn't?) but had no idea that his persecution by Hitler was to do with his homosexuality. My eyes, not easily opened as a rule, were rudely pushed to their limits with some of the revelations in this book. It is one I am likely to re-read at some point for a number of reasons, all the information about the 1930s, the lifestyle of the players and their competitions and the brutal prejudices that abounded at the time. The year 1937 seems to reach a particular high in history notwithstanding the abdication of Edward VIII and 1933 is packed full of incidents and architecture which shaped the rest of the decade. - June 2012

'A Moment of Silence', 'A Gentleman of Fortune' and 'A Woman of Consequence' by Miss Anna Dean

- And so to the conclusion of the trilogy - or is it? Dido remains steadfastly unmarried at the end and still dependent on her male relatives and siblings. Another clever novel using sleuthing without today's computerised aids - you can get just so much of problem-solving and contrived twists and red herrings. It's inoffensive but I have become bored with the formulaic plot lines - July 2013

- Back with Dido and her suitor from the first novel in 'A Gentleman of Fortune'. These are very definitely novels of manners and appropriate behaviour (and a missed opportunity for a proposal to be made and accepted or rejected). Another enjoyable read using detecting methods of the 19th century and an enquiring mind - a Jane Austen 'Miss Marple.' - November 2012

- I think I was drawn to this trilogy (the first is sub-headed as The Observations of Miss Dido Kent) because of the gentility of the author's name - Miss Anna Dean. Also this is a novel in 'one volume' - no further episodes to worry about. Although I mention the word trilogy, I think it is just the character that will run through the books - spinster aunt Dido Kent who writes in the very first decade of the 19th century. It is a nice gentile novel set in 1805 and if Jane Austen had been of a mind to write a mystery detecting novel, this would have been it! - February 2012.

'Ballet Shoes for Anna', 'Tennis Shoes', 'Theatre Shoes', 'White Boots' by Noel Streatfeild

White Boots - the subject is ice skating, one of the passions of my younger days, curtailed by my illness at the age of 14 in 1966. This book is surprisingly more childishly written, maybe aimed at a younger audience, than others of Noel Streatfeild's that I have read, it is also mawkish and too much of a fairy tail, at least that the start of the book. Having passed the fairy tale stage and got used the the quirkiness of Harriet's family members and the rather unbelievable life-style they are forced to endure compared to that of Lalla and her temperamentally opposed guardians and team of carers (Nanny, Governess etc. etc. all the trappings of wealth) the book leads us into a cacophony of spite and deceit. Not really role model material (I nearly said 'stuff', obviously still in 'kid' mode) and the resolution was so swift it was near dismissive in 'righting the wrongs.' Not Mrs. Streatfeilds finest hour - October 2017

Theatre Shoes - this book takes us into WWII and highlights the every day life as experienced by three siblings. It really is an interesting read from that perspective as well as linking us to the original 'Tennis Shoes' characters, making it work so much better than 'Ballet Shoes for Anna' (see below). I also enjoyed revisiting the whole theatrical experience that this book describes as it is an atmosphere I am familiar with having worked for many years in one professional capacity or another in the 'rear of house' of several theatres.

Tennis Shoes - is the second of the 'Shoes' books I've now read and I thoroughly enjoyed it! But then I like children's stories and 'Ballet Shoes' is the famous one and which has been dramatised for television. I came across this one whilst researching Gill, Hill and Ravilious involvement in the Paris Expo of 1937! - Strange bedfellow indeed! Anyway, a lovely book of manners and ambitions from the 1930s! - March 2012

Ballet Shoes for Anna - of course, I freely admit, I was seduced by the title - who wouldn't be, well who, called Anna, wouldn't be? This was a disappointing book, it did not have the novelty of the original 'Ballet Shoes' and the formula was the same but transposed to the 1970s when values and norms were quite different not just the change in currency from £ s d to sterling and new pence. It also came across as a bit petulant which I have read in other 1970s offerings, maybe we were petulant then? But the real disappointment was the use of 'pidgin' English - not a mature attitude for this author. The note at the back of the book by her nephew was more entertaining and enlightening than the whole book. - June 2012

The Bourne 'Objective' (8), 'Dominion' (9), 'Imperative' (10), 'Retribution' (11) by Eric Van Lustbader based on the original character created by Robert Ludlum.

The Bourne Retribution - It took a little bit more than just persuading myself I needed to read this as I have found some of the earlier books distinctly lacking in a 'feel' for what may or may not have become the 'continuing story of Jason Bourne - a man rejuvenated' but as stated in 'Imperative' the books were beginning to improve. This one had an early improvement as it linked directly to the preceding book and took the action into a new area, this time involving two secretive organisations - Mossad and the Chinese 'Mafia' - I enjoyed visualising the NCIS team in the Mossad parts although Bourne, has of necessity, to be able to blend into a background, so he couldn't be portrayed in the persona of 'Leroy Jethro Gibbs' played immaculately by Mark Harmon; incidentally I never see Bourne as Matt Damon when I'm reading (or even Richard Chamberlain who appeared in a very early film adaptation of one of my favourite Ludlum's 'The Holcroft Covenant'). This book was less a film script than in previous efforts, although the action kept moving between various locations. Gratuitous sex descriptions and the peppering of the 'f' word were unworthy of Ludlum who tackled both subjects differently but, each to his own, at least it doesn't dominate the storyline. The general feel stayed constant to the originals as written by Ludlum and this time we had a well written twist which was a welcome relief because of its content and because up to yet I don't think Lustbader has realised the importance of this tactic to keep us wanting more! A much better effort overall and I hope it continues into Book 12 - 15th September 2017

The Bourne Imperative - This book is an improvement on its predecessor and it looks as I'll keep 'buying in' to this prolonged saga of Jason Bourne. I'm not convinced that Robert Ludlum intended for his hero to have become a serial as his books are mostly one-offs or maybe with one sequel, Bourne being the exception and becoming a trilogy (a very welcome one too as I had become fond of this character). But here we are on book 10 and I'm about to embark on Book 11 in a few books time. This book has several strands which all link up eventually and leaves many casualties along the way, it did represent the original ideas of Bourne's derring-do a bit more faithfully but the two flaws are that Bourne seems to be doing a 'Benjamin Button' in terms of age and capacity, remember Ludlum made him passed his 40th birthday when we first met him, and there really is no proper mystery about the man any more just a few grey areas. I wonder what material Lustbader has to use or add in the next three sequels. April 2017

The Bourne Dominion - OK - when I started reading this book, no. 9 in the series I wondered if I had already read it - there were great chunks of material that were direct cribs/copies/duplications of Book 8 (Objective) - is it a printing error or was the book perhaps not proof-read. All in all a very disappointing sequel - it is unlikely that I shall purchase any more in this particular post-mortem series of Ludlum's ideas. The formula is now getting very tired.- October 2012

The Bourne Objective - I have to get over the fact of thinking that Arkadin is dead - like Bourne he seems immortal and, at the end of this episode I'm not convinced he was blown up into a thousand pieces. I really needed to concentrate on who was doing what to whom - always great to be swept up by Bourne in any guise but he really does need to have a rest and settle down soon! But as we know - no. 9 is waiting to be read .... - February 2012

Another two ghost editions in the style of the late Robert Ludlum whose rip-roaring, fast-paced narratives I sorely miss but Van Lustbader makes a sterling effort to keep the myth of the author and of Bourne alive. I'm glad they are now being numbered or like True Blood I might well have found myself reading them out of chronological order. I look forward to getting around to reading something more substantial than my recent fairly lightweight or tedious biographical literature.

'The Mystery of Edwin Drood' / 'Master Humphrey's Clock' by Charles Dickens

- Edwin was long for an unfinished version - there was no cohesion and hasn't improved my opinion of Mr. Dickens talents. (Trust me to start with an unfinished novel as I revisit the world that is Charles Dickens.) - March 2012

'That Woman - The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor' by Anne Sebba

It wasn't a cloying overly-sentimental or sympathetic portrayal of Mrs. Simpson nor was it exactly supportive. I'm not sure how much of the information is new but certainly I think there is a lot of information there that would not have been made public before the 21st century. The book ended abruptly after the Duchess of Windsor became a widow as if she didn't count once there was no man appended to her. I found that a bit dismissive as the biography was to be about her not her as a couple. She lived on for 14 further years after Edward VIIIs death - not all of that time was she confined to her bed in the Bois de Boulogne, surely? - February 2012

'Rules of Civility' by Amor Towles

Mostly this was an enjoyable read - good structurally and an interesting time period - a bit of Great Gatsby but staying on the wrong side of the rails and just looking in occasionally. It has a comfortable finale which draws everything very neatly together - it could have been a bit more unpredictable but it had its moments. I think I was hoping for more of 'The Women' input - but this is a modern piece not contemporary to the period. - March 2012

'Half-Blood Blues' by Esi Edugyan

This book, with its original and innovative take on WWII could have been so much better on several levels. The disappearance of the German born black musician, whose skills were second only to Louis Armstrong, from Paris shortly after it was declared an 'Open City' by the Nazis is something I have never come across before. The conclusion, in Poland, was unexpected but fittingly apt, the veiled reference to the missing years, those war-time not post-war years was cleverly, if all too briefly, skimmed over in a dream-like sequence leading to a deflated ending - but that was not its only disappointment. I nearly did not continue with the story after painstakingly reading through the first two chapters and attempting to adjust to the 'jive-talking' method of writing- an amateurish way of ensuring the reader was aware that they were in a black community. I found this insulting to the reader (myself included) and all those blacks who do not 'jive-talk' or do not need to employ it as a means of identification. It was a brutal experience and I do not regret having had the opportunity of reading this novel which was so close to winning the Man Booker. - December 2011

'Ender's Game' by Orson Scott Card

There, I've read my first (and probably last) science-fantasy book! Next year we'll be going to see the film (me, probably under protest) - to be fair this is not my genre, but the book is well written and there is no bad language (unless you, like me, consider the word "child" bad language). The end though is yet another disappointment unless the author had a sequel in mind which I think he must have had as I'm led to believe that another trilogy and off-shoots have also been written - but they won't be read by me. Should have stopped when the war was won in my opinion! - December 2011

'Child of My Love' by Sue Ryder

A book of great magnitude spanning over 600 pages! I wanted to know more about Sue Ryder, the person and why this woman affiliated herself with Poles and chose Warsaw as her titular name when awarded life peerage in 1978 (her other awards are Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1975 and the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1957.) Although the book is packed with the information I was seeking it was also little more than a text book of dates and times and achievements - it would have meant so much more if written as a biography-proper as we know them these days. - January 2012

'The Rhinemann Exchange', 'The Aquitaine Progression' and 'The Scarlatti Inheritance' by Robert Ludlum

The Rhinemann Exchange - Robert Ludlum is one of my favourite authors and I particularly love his 'what if' scenarios concerning the events of the Nazi regime of the second world war - everything seems so plausible and very scary (apologies for over-using this word). I also need to read something that I am familiar with in between all the new authors, so this year I have decided to re-read many of what I consider to be Ludlum classics. (Although I love the original three 'Bourne' books, I don't like the way the story line has been hi-jacked by the Matt Damon film interpretations which have just made the original deeply thought-provoking concept into another nondescript action-style over-SFX-d movie). Having praised Ludlum to the hilt here I actually found the Rhinemann exchange a little convoluted with a confusing style in the first half of the book which then reverted to an adventure story in mundane chronological order - not his best. I did, however, enjoy re-reading 'The Gemini Contenders' and 'The Holcroft Covenant' earlier in the year! Both subscribing to the 'what if' scenarios of the master's touch! - May 2011

The Scarlatti Inheritance' - This is another welcome re-read, I confess I can't remember much if any of the content. I'm not sure if that it is because I used to read them in such a hurry or because there is so much to remember and cross reference that the brain can't cope with it! Anyway, re-read or no - another fantastic example of how a thriller novel should be written. Fast, convoluted, never boring and the end is worthy of the content unlike many new authors who don't seem to know how to conclude a promising storyline! Can't wait for the next re-read ..... September 2011

The Aquitaine Progression' - Lots of lovely hokum, pages and pages of it! This is another re-read and I'm glad I did as I have little or no recollection of the book first time around - I think it's because there is so much information and I was just wanting to get to the conclusion. This time a bit more of a leisurely read but still rushing to the finale. Another fine reminder of how dangerous Neo-Nazism could be, However, happily, despite all the odds and some 'unfinished business' good did triumph over evil. - November 2011

'The Celestial City' by Baroness Orczy

- As originally stated, not only am I not familiar with the style of writing of the Baroness Orczy but I'm not sure I've read too much that has been written in this time frame. So suffice it to say I also am no expert on the genre of the day. At first I found it a little difficult to get round the cryptic references - for instance it took quite a while before the relationship between the two main characters was revealed. Then the book is written in a sort of flashback, retrospective way but in small chunks so again - easy to get confused - but once I'd got used to the style by the time I was supposed to have been thoroughly flumoxed I had actually rumbled the plot and the re-hashed relationship as seen previously with Sir Percy and his Marguerite only this time the roles were sort of reversed. It was fun! - October 2011

I'm not quite sure what to expect here as I have enjoyed The Scarlet Pimpernel in film and on television, but never read any of the books (unless as a child - but have no recollection of this). I'd never heard of this title or any others that weren't the Scarlet Pimpernel based so I'm hoping it will be an interesting experience.

'The Atlantis Code' by Charles Brokaw

What can I say - read the first hundred pages in one sitting - already I have Russian espionage, Egyptian artefacts and the Vatican! - I really enjoyed this one - fast paced, full of action, intelligently written, good basic story line - worth a re-read - October 2011

'Madam, Will You Talk' by Mary Stewart

A recommendation by my sister - I look forward to giving it a try. Well, it started well even though I was astonished at the purity of the writing, I've become accustomed to easy reading and as a result maybe become a little lazy! Once I'd got over the shock of the writing style which I settled into quite comfortably, I became intrigued up to half-way through, then it changed direction and became a bit Mills and Boony which definitely turned me off and then right at the end, a piece of historical Nazi brutality (always a good subject) rounded it all off nicely and retribution delivered accordingly in all the right places and to all the right people! - October 2011

'The Romanov Prophecy' by Steve Berry

I wasn't sure, when I started reading this whether or not it was a re-read and I couldn't warm to it at the start, but I soon got over that, it's a fun yarn to re-read, and I really hadn't absorbed much to start with, I must have been in too much of a hurry to get to the conclusion. It was well worth re-visiting. - September 2011

'A Difficult Term at the Chalet School' by Lisa Townsend

- A excellent in-fill in the growing number of Chalet School fans who have written their own novels to fill the sometimes irritating gaps left by EBD between books for no real rhyme or reason. This book falls into a somewhat 'dodgy' time line that EBD created but has successfully covered the worst of the misaligned information provided by the original author. It is an easy read, good style, if anything, just a little more nurturing and less mawkish than the style EBD occasionally introduced to her books - my own view is that she, EBD, sometimes got irritated (aka Christie) or bored with her own creations, hence the gaps! - August 2011

- The latest in-fill to cover for a missing section in the Chalet School chronology - a first for Lisa Townsend following in the footsteps of several predecessors who have successfully continued the spell of the originals by Elinor M Brent-Dyer.

'House of the Hanged' by Mark Mills

- I'm delighted to say that the twist in the story caught me out - I did think a couple of times that the pivotal 'scenario' to which I returned in my mind was never fully explained although the intimation deliberately takes the reader to the wrong conclusion, well, this reader anyway. An enjoyable romp even though on occasion I didn't enjoy the switch in time frames - I'm not a stickler for chronology but I I don't enjoy too many swings into different time frames making the whole a little untidy. - September 2011.

This is a Sunday Telegraph recommendation - my interest was stirred by the fact that the book is set in the 1935 but started in post-revolution Russia in 1919.

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows', 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

- 'The Eighth Story, 19 years later' - not a book but a 'special rehearsal edition script' for a stage play to conclude the story of the intrepid threesome! This is actually a nice piece of hokum, not without its dark bits which have to be there because of Voldermort but I think this is meant to give us, as much as Harry, closure. For Harry it is about the last moment of his parents lives whom we know perished at the hands of the Dark Lord. For us, the last chapter of the 7th book tantalised us with the 'next generation' - here we get to know them and the 'alternate' futures that might have been but when all is said and done - despite the 'resurrections' and return of much-loved characters, the absence of Snape was palpable! The introduction of Delphi had me totally confused as this was nearly a clone of a character of the same name in 'True Blood' and served to distract. I shall watch a tv production of this, with interest, if it happens but I won't be clamouring to go to the theatre to see it as it is regrettably, too lightweight - December 2016

- It was good to re-read this book before and after going to see the film because it refreshed the story for me and also brought home that however valiantly the film tried to give the viewer a deep insight into the book, for those who hadn't read it may feel it was a lot of fuss about nothing. For myself, I thought the film ending did not do justice to the book finale (especially to my favourite and most maligned character - Severus Snape) nor to Neville's involvement nor to the parallels of the orphaned son now in the safe hands of that other famous orphan - Harry Potter. - July 2011.

- Just as an afterthought, I refused to read the books (first time around) until they were all published and then read them chronologically (yes, I know how else would one want to read them?) and was heartily sick of all things Potter at the end of Book 7 but it was good to revisit just the one book this time around.

- Thought I'd better re-read this before seeing the movie (Part 2) - didn't quite make it but was at least refreshed as to what happened in Part 1 - so far enjoying the read.

'The Silver Sword' by Ian Serraillier

- A very quick read, 30 minutes or so, but it is a full book not a short story. As with all Holocaust fiction it is not to my taste, but is based on on 'amalgamation' of experiences told to the author. Although a good read for a generation growing up in the 21st century, it is over-sanitised and the happy ending, a little too happy (think the Frank family for reality).

Review from Play.com : "Jan opened his wooden box and took out the silver sword. 'This will bring me luck,' he said to Mr Balicki. 'And it will bring you luck because you gave it to me.' The silver sword is only a paper knife, but it gives Jan and his friends hope. Hungry, cold, and afraid, the four children try to stay alive among the ruins of bombed cities in war-torn Europe. Soon they will begin the long and dangerous journey south, from Poland to Switzerland, where they hope to find their parents again."

'The Third Secret' by Steve Berry

- Another book that moves apace and is very believable. I have definitely read this book previously but it was worth a re-read which I did in double-quick time as I wanted to be reminded of the end - again, a book that did have a beginning, middle and conclusion and interwove fact and some very imaginative fiction. - July 2011

- This author has written about three subjects close to my heart, the third secret (of Fatima) as portrayed in this book, the lost Amber Room and the Romanovs - I wish he would tackle the Turin Shroud and Anastasia (two more of my interests)

- Vatican thriller! I think I've read this one before, but am more than happy to be reading it again, it was part of my holiday reading and to say I'm 'devouring' the book would not be an understatement! (And yes, OK, I like the cover colour!)

'Atlantis' and 'The Gods of Atlantis' by David Gibbins

- Mmmm - a sequel. - And it wasn't worth it - it turned into a hunt for Nazi artefacts which is best left to Robert Ludlum and if I see the word 'finning' just once more I'll fin somebody! - December 2011

- Verdict - 'Ice Station Zebra' meets 'Indiana Jones' with a pinch of 'Jason Bourne'! - July 2011

- I was side-tracked by this book as it was on offer for 1p on Amazon, and although the obligatory postage was £2.80 (no qualifying for free delivery here) I still felt made this a bargain for a brand new book on a another subject I find interesting - nothing like a mystery or a conspiracy theory for good reading as far as I am concerned! I came across this title (the author is also new to me and not surprising as this is his first novel) whilst looking at some other titles and Amazon were actually advertising that I could pre-order the sequel 'Gods of Atlantis'. No point in ordering a sequel if you haven't read the original - so here I am reading this before the other books I had scheduled - hope it's worth it!

'Madeleine' by Kate McCann

I was fortunate to purchase this edition quickly, in near-mint condition and cheaply on ebay. I'm concerned at the number of people who are parting with this book once they have read it - it isn't as if there is a global shortage ..... just a thought.

I completed the book today (4th July) and was pleased to do so. The book is, in the main, written in an easy narrative style. The beginning of the book, however, (where any author would be looking to make a positive impact) kept lapsing into some very strange (what I perceive as) 'Mills and Boon' dialogue as if somehow needing to emphasise something that was not coming forward naturally from the author or she was having difficulties in expressing adequately what the editors felt was needed to put a more 'human face' across and appeal to a larger female market. Whatever the reason it was irritating and unworthy of the subject of this book - Madeleine. There is a continuous reference to how 'pretty' Madeleine was and I have to wonder if there would have been such a sustained badgering of our consciousness if the child had been in any way plain. I wanted to get to know Madeleine, I can see for myself from the photographs that she is an endearingly pretty child. At no time did I feel many emotions, particularly remorse, from the author although 'guilt' is a recurring theme. The word 'offensive' occurs on several occasions - mostly when things were not going as the author thought they should thereby transferring the 'guilt' to somebody else. In these instances in particular the author came over as controlling and I was unable to feel any empathy for her. I felt two things were extremely strange and difficult to accept - the first that the author did not feel at any time that she and her husband may not have been fated to be parents. Using their privileged position as a medics they were able to participate in artificial insemination programmes to generate both pregnancies, despite mentioning early in the book the heartache they had witnessed when the procedure failed in others. Much is written about the power of prayer, from the start, the authors' devout Catholicism is floated as a banner and yet the manner of conception is not supported by the church - once again, the McCanns show us how much more important their needs are than that of anyone else. The second which I find 'offensive' and 'unforgiveable' although I am not 'incandescent' is that the author (and by extension her husband, Madeleine's father), at no time, reveals any remorse or understanding of wrong-doing when abandoning three young children on more nights than just the one in question, when Madeleine became the innocent victim of neglect, and they were found out in their wrong-doing..

I hope the child is safe and may one day face her parents and ask them what they were thinking of when they left her and the twins, unattended in a foreign country. - July 2011

'The Last Dance' by Denys Blakeway

Back in my favourite decade - this book is described as '1936 - The Year of Change.' Astonishingly the first thing I discover is that the death of George V was 'hastened' so that he did not 'linger' too long to avoid giving the country instability between his death and the accession of the future Edward VIII who was already deemed unstable enough without giving him any further excuses to delay his responsibilities as the new monarch. Second great fact is that before Edward and Mrs. Simpson became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, a title that was created for them, Edward had hoped that Wallis would eventually be crowned with him, but that when they married she would become either the Duchess of Lancaster or Duchess of Cornwall. I wonder if it was a bit of mischief on somebody's part to suggest Camilla become the Duchess of Cornwall as 'Princess of Wales' was considered unsuitable and only the monarch (of either gender) is permitted the title of Duke of Lancaster. Currently our present monarch, HM Queen Elizabeth is the Duke of Lancaster which is the only title ever held by a living monarch.

There is a lot of information here that reminds me of instances I have read about or seen in films or been made aware of somehow. For instance, in the film of 'The Pride of Miss Jean Brodie' at the end of the film, Sandy (one of Miss Brodies' 'Crème de la Crème' chosen few)quite cruelly and deliberately tells her that one of her besotted pupils had run away to fight in Spain and been killed (the novel is set in the late 1930s at the height of the Spanish Civil War). The Last Dance refers to a real-life person, Felicia Browne, who was 'the first British Volunteer to die in the Spanish Civil War.' Secondly the book refers to Canon Hugh Richard Lowrie Sheppard who, in 1936, set up the 'Peace Pledge Union' which still exists today. Elinor Brent-Dyer, in her war-time stories of the Chalet School introduces a 'Peace League' whereby all the pupils pledge to promote peace however they can as the war clouds loom over Europe and their German, Italian and Austrian friends are dispersed back into the Reich. As the PPU web-site states they were started in 1934, I wonder if EBD already knew of the existence of this school of thought, approved of it and introduced it to her pupils so that they would have a better understanding of the horrors of war.

This book also scores high points with me as it stresses the importance of the film 'Things to Come' in the run-up to war. The book ends with the fire at Crystal Palace, which was a monumental occurrence and great tragedy, it also mops up how some of the major characters ended their year rounding off the whole in an expert manner. Somewhere in that final chapter mention was made of the coincidence that Camilla, now Duchess of Cornwall paralleled some of the actions of Wallis Simpson and the really remarkable fact was that a Cat Show was due at the Crystal Palace, which was obviously as omni-purpose as the current Millennium Dome, two days after the fire and that luckily the cats due to go on show had not yet been drafted in - I should home not too! Two days in cages - the very thought! Excellent factual book, lagged a little in places but full of really well put together and enlightening information for anyone who enjoys the period (as I do). - June 2011

'Babylon Revisited' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A trilogy of short stories : 'Babylon Revisited', 'The Cut-Glass Bowl' and 'The Lost Decade'

- This is the second trilogy of short stories written by F Scott Fitzgerald that I have read, the first being the compilation which included the story of Benjamin Button after seeing the film of the same name. Fitzgerald has a quirky style that appeals to me and I have enjoyed all his short stories. After reading 'The Cut-Glass Bowl' which stirred up my hatred of Crystal (Kryształ so beloved on post-war Poles) and made me wonder if I had read this story in my dim and distant youth and whether it influenced my dislike of this particular glassware? - June 2011

The Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries : 'Damsel in Distress', 'Dead in the Water', 'Styx and Stones', 'Rattle His Bones', 'To Davy Jones Below', 'The Case of the Murdered Muckraker', 'Mistletoe and Murder', 'Die Laughing', 'A Mourning Wedding', 'Fall of a Philanderer', 'The Gunpowder Plot', 'The Bloody Tower' by Carola Dunn

'A Daisy Dalrymple Mystery' - these are nice light-hearted books following the adventures of a 1920/30s single girl with good breeding but impoverished circumstances. I've just read my own introduction and need to qualify that Daisy is now a married lady!**

- Fall of a Philanderer - I think I really needed to read something familiar and cosy as I 'devoured' the first seven chapters in one go! Yes, I know and I'm sorry to perpetuate this ridiculous use of 'devour' used at every opportunity these days to emphasize an enjoyment - bit barbaric and infantile if you ask me! Anyway, not withstanding yet another criticism that I feel I need to levy on today's dropping standards, I would, very much, recommend this book if someone asked me to point them in the direction of a new read. Yes, I know, I did it on purpose, honestly I did, I hate the affectation of sticking 'very much' where I did! BBC are overusing it, a particular tennis commentator overuses it as well as her description of 'popcorn matches'! As a former not very successful player she should know how much effort (these days at least) is put into training, popcorn indeed! Sorry Daisy! Anyway, although this book is not the first in the series, it's a great 'stand-alone' departure from the normal formula, because it focuses on the investigation and Alec's part in it as the Scotland Yard senior officer that he is. Daisy is not neglected although perhaps the physical aspects of her pregnancy allows the author to keep her more in check, nor is the inclusion of Alec's daughter (who is accompanied by a friend to keep her company) to allow Alec to shine. Another departure is the discovery, after painstaking investigation, that this was, in fact, an accidental death. That is why I believe that if I were to try to introduce someone to the Daisy saga, this would be the best example of the series as it takes a holistic view of a serious subject in a more genteel setting. If the person I recommended this too likes the genre, they can read the series from the beginning in the knowledge that they have to 'grow' into getting to know the characters. Set on the coast in the South of England I was easily able to imagine this being the coastline of Bigbury just across from Burgh Island - July 2017

- A Mourning Wedding - I have returned to reading the series in their correct order again and Daisy, now heavily pregnant, is attending a society wedding in the Highlands. The bride, a childhood friend of hers, is not in the least inclined to go ahead with the nuptials although, with the exception of Daisy, hasn't mentioned this to anyone. Needless to say, events overtake the not-as-yet-revealed reluctance on the bride's part and Alec is summoned in his Scotland Yard capacity earlier than he was intending to arrive as Daisy's 'plus one'. Although still 'meddling' Daisy does offer some interesting and useful insights to Alec, and her condition at least makes her less reckless physically despite herself and to Alec's unashamed relief. She is also, as usual, the bridge between High Society and the rest of the world including the Police. This story is back to its formulaic best and was fun to read - November 2015

- The Bloody Tower - I may be reading this out of sequence which would explain a few things (like new-born twins). May have to revisit!

- A Mourning Wedding - I did indeed swap the books around and out of their chronological order, so have stopped reading The Bloody Tower and am back in a comfort zone as Daisy is now in the early stages of pregnancy rather than an already established mother! Review to follow.

- Die Laughing - I enjoyed this one as it was set locally and placed Daisy in her husband's family home (complete with mother-in-law, step-daughter and puppy). It also firmly established the pecking order of the women in Alec's life with Daisy coming way above his mother but probably equal to his daughter, Belinda. I'm glad my interest has been refreshed as there are several book yet to come! It was nice to meet up with the police sidekicks again who unfailingly adore Daisy!

- Mistletoe and Murder - Goodness, with at least a dozen books to go dare I say I am getting a little bored with this series? It has taken me a mighty long time to chew my way through this book. Maybe it was because the location was on a barren island and a slew of new family characters none of whom were very sympathetic or interested were foisted on us. I always find messing with a tried formula rarely works, and true to form it has failed miserably in this novel. It may be a while before I read another Daisy - May 2013

- The Case of the Murdered Muckraker - Set in America in the 1930s and inside the Flatiron building to name but one magnificent art deco structure in New York. We also get a lesson in not-such-a-high-speed race against time in the skies and learn the meaning of many hitherto 'archaic' Americanisms. It's good escapist lightweight stuff - but it needs the British team to make it succeed - Daisy and Alec are too lightweight on their own. - July 2012

- To Davy Jones Below - Daisy gets married!** Daisy in the confined space of a cruiser with only her husband and the passengers and crew needs the usual team around her. This one didn't work too well, not unlike the Poirot TV episodes without Hastings. If the author had intended to convey a confined space, she succeeded but Daisy overfilled the vacancy! - April 2012

- Rattle His Bones - set in the Palaeontology section of the British Museum and concerns missing precious jewels, exiled foreign minor royalty from 'Transcarpathia' and lots of bones and Alec finally sets the date! Always fun but the mustiness of the museum and the description of the London pea-supers made this very grey visually. - November 2011

- Styx and Stones - 'The affaire of the poison letter writer' could it really be the Vicar? Anyway, another nice romp, a little more personal as the setting is at her sister's house and she has to deal with nieces and nephews and prospective step-daughters as well as her fiancé (the ring is returned at one point - gasp!) and not to mention the village clique - so glad there are more in this series and my sister is also reading them now! - October 2011

- Dead in the Water, a nice play on words without being a pun, concerns a 'varsity boat race' theme so you can see why the comment about the title. Another fun adventure for Daisy and a little more time being devoted to her fiancé Alec. A nice easy read as always - August 2011.

- Damsel is the fifth in a series that I started reading sometime last year as I wanted to try out some new authors. I suppose Daisy is the next step up from grown-up school stories. This 5th instalment concentrates on a kidnapping rather than the obligatory murder and steps up the romance in this single girls' life. An enjoyable and easy read, something I would take on holiday with me as well as enjoying whilst indulging in more serious tandem reading. This smacks of a 'Daisy Pulls it Off' type of genre, but that really is set in a boarding school and is a stage play! - June 2011

The Chalet School Series : 'The Chalet School in Exile', 'Bride Leads the Chalet School', 'Summer Term at the Chalet School', 'Joey & Co. In Tirol', 'Joey Goes to the Oberland', 'Trials for the Chalet School' by Elinor M Brent Dyer

- 'Trials for the Chalet School' - Early days in Switzerland with the school settling in Europe during a term when new girls are not usually accepted, the exception in this case is Naomi, a supremely beautiful girl whose body is disfigured and twisted following severe burns, leaving her lame and forced to use a stick. Naomi arrives with the stereotypical attitude attributed to 'cripples.' However, not only the original book but a new follow up short story do deal with the situation sympathetically and knowledgeably. The subject, we are reminded, has been hinted at in a previous book when the misguided jealousy of a sister believing she had been usurped in her mother's affection by the addition of a crippled sibling following a re-marriage was dealt with sensitively. An interesting re-read if only to experience the near perfect privileged life of attending this school. - 20.03.2017

-'Joey Goes to the Oberland' - another book in the series set outside of the school (educational) term and sees the return of Joey to the original schools roots, but in Switzerland rather than Austria this time as the political situation of the time would not have allowed for a return in the same circumstances. The cover illustrates the powerful image of Joey, despite being in her late twenties and 'a proud mama of eight', the irrepressible as she find herself well and truly stuck in a travelling trunk with the cute triplets looking on in horror. This book is full of reminders, reminiscences, parting of the ways and all those emotions incumbent with starting a new life on a different continent. We say farewell to the Robin who is embarking on her chosen life choice, that of a cloistered nun in Canada (wonder why EBD wanted to get rid of such an engaging character?), we see one of the early weddings of the new generation as Daisy marries her own doctor. We greet with affection Simone and her extraordinary change of circumstance and we fall eagerly into Frieda's warm embrace (I always liked her the best of the quartet) and we experience the intimacy that comes so easily to Dr. and Mrs Maynard away from any scholastic life. In all another entertaining book and always worth a re-read. - March 2017

- 'Joey & Co. In Tirol' - one of a few of the books not set during a term time. I say that rather than state the storyline is not set in a school building/location because, of course, we are back in Tirol where the original school was first established and where the Bettany/Maynard/Russell clan are slowly buying up all the former school premises and upgrading them to family holiday homes. I do miss the Tirol days it has to be said and we were treated to the memory of Jo's escapades as a schoolgirl and then young woman fleeing from the Nazis when she takes the new generation to the 'Cave' which served as a very efficient hiding place and aiding in their escape to safety. We also meet the Richardsons (Ruey, Roger and Roddy) who turn out to be related to Daisy's husband, so all neatly tied up with the cherry on the cake being their 'guardianship' by the Maynards until they reach maturity. Glad to see EBD allowing a bit of mischief to creep in, caused by a misunderstanding and the over-stimulated imagination of teenagers on the cusp of adulthood! This is, essentially, an insight into the next generation of young adults with the occasional link to the adult Maynards and Russells. Always an interesting re-read - August 2016

- 'Summer Term' brings another link with the past to the school and another orphan to be integrated into the ever-expanding Maynard family, in fact two orphans - Erica who is the daughter of a former late pupil and the baby she rescues from the train crash in which Jo was also involved. In fact poor pretty blonde Erica is a disaster zone of her own making. This book actually centres on Erica (who for a change is not the eponymous heroine) and the Maynards et al are peripheral - it is interesting to get larger chunks of insight into the school and its inhabitants once all the mayhem has subsided. As always, an enjoyable read but I do wish the publishers had decided on a chronological order rather than a haphazard one for publication - I do much prefer the older books set in the Tyrol and would like to read them all again. - October 2013

- I had a lot of fun re-reading 'Bride' on holiday in Wales (which is where the school is located in this volume) - we were in Portmeirion and the School is on an island off the Welsh Coast (Anglesey is close by to Portmeirion) - the venue provided for no interruptions and it happened to be sunny so we were lazing by the pool. This book is a little different as it does not feature any of the 'major' players of the Russell / Maynard dynasties but does feature a 'Bettany' from the non-distaff side and opens up more information from that branch of the family, which happily continues in the appropriate and time-honoured family and school codes. This book is also destined for re-sale for charity and once again I read it with great care and of course enjoyment! - July 2011

- I've loved the Chalet Books since they were introduced to me as the natural successor to Enid Blyton's 'Secret Seven' and 'Mallory Towers' which, it was deemed, I should have outgrown by the age of eleven or thereabouts. At one time I owned all the available hardback editions of the Chalet Books which were then gifted to our younger cousins/godchildren for their enjoyment. (Unfortunately, it is likely they ended as collectors items on ebay, fetching fantastic sums, as they were all in excellent condition when my mother gave them away because we had always been encouraged to treat books with respect.) Luckily Girls Gone By Publishers have obtained the rights to the Chalet Series and other books by Brent-Dyer and are re-printing them in an unabridged version but, disappointingly, not in chronological order. 'The Chalet School in Exile' is one of my favourites and is really really scary - I appreciated that much more on re-reading the book as an adult for the first time some years ago! I read this book in tandem with 'Story of a Secret State' and it has made an interesting eclectic mix - fiction and fact set in the same time frame, each engrossing and informative from two very different perspectives. I finished the book this morning and cried buckets during the final chapter even though I knew what was going to happen to all of the characters involved. A pretty powerful piece of writing if it can still make such an impact after all these years and countless re-readings. This is one of two books which have been re-reprinted in a revised format, so prior to passing this edition on, I am taking advantage if re-reading the stories, very carefully so that the books remain pristine. - May 2011

'Story of a Secret State - My Report to the World' by Jan Karski

- Despite trying to read this book in, no more than two chapters at a time, I failed miserably and found myself racing through reading a minimum of three chapters at a time. It is compelling reading, moving at a fast pace and never losing momentum despite (or in spite of) its many and varied levels dealing with bureaucracy in its most basic form to the recounting in factual detail the bestiality performed in the Nazi Concentration Camps based in Poland. A book every generation of Pole or descendant with Polish roots should be proud to read. I would encourage anyone chancing on this review or seeing any of the professional reviews to give the book a go and see how you feel at its conclusion. - June 2011

- I have now read the first four chapters of this book - it is the sort that needs reading in greater chunks than just one chapter at a time. The removal of the author from his comfortable and familiar surroundings immediately reminded me of 'A Journey Without a Ticket' written by Krystyna which I read earlier this year. My parents also went through this uprooting and both books bring home the emotions they must have experienced very strongly; my mother when she was forcibly carted off to Siberia in a cattle truck and my father extracted from his military life to prisoner of war status.

- I have just ordered this book and it will take precedence over other reading as I have heard of it for years but despite being first published in 1944 it has never been available in the English Language before now ..... (and the year is 2011!) - May 2011

The 'True Blood' Series : 'Dead Until Dark', 'Living Dead in Dallas', 'Club Dead', 'Dead to the World', 'Dead as a Doornail', 'All Together Dead', 'Definitely Dead', 'Dead to Worse', 'Dead and Gone', 'Dead in the Family', 'Dead Reckoning', Deadlocked' and finally 'Dead Ever After' by Charlaine Harris

- After Dead - an appendix giving a brief explanation of the future happenings to minor characters and fleshed out a little more for more major characters current and previous. Clever idea, apparently requested by fans. Helps to round everything off nicely. - July 2017

- Dead Ever After - so I've finally reached the finale (although there is a 'character mop-up' to round everything off) - the introduction and first couple of chapters are in a different but welcome style - this is a farewell but there's no sentiment at this stage. There are various references to the series as the book progresses, which is helpful when a reader, such as I, had intervals between the books. Sookie is surrounded by familiar, but changed, principals and very quickly we lose a character we have known throughout. The fabric of Sookie's home life has changed drastically and she, as well as the reader have many adjustments to make. The penultimate chapter made me jump out of my skin, good to know I can still be surprised! Then we are returned to calmer waters and closure, of sorts, not complete by satisfactory, is reached. Thanks Charlaine Harris for a fun ride! - July 2015

- Deadlocked - this was a very slow start and the 'Fae' characters don't carry a lot of substance (but maybe that is the nature of the 'fairy' element). After meandering for a while and casting doubt on the majority of the main characters, the end caught me by surprise. (Better that than being bored)! An entire swathe of the series has been removed and the book is definitely leading us to a final and concluding chapter. Having said that, there is a follow-up book which ties up all the loose ends and unanswered fates of some of the characters which will have led to speculations by the die-hard fans (of which I am not one). I'll be interested to see how it all ends in the final book.

- Dead Reckoning - certainly gives us a high body count and some very determined and nasty characters. This book also gives us more of an insight into the 'fae' (Sookie Stackhouse's fairy kinfolk) lore and explains how it cascaded down the human-fae mix and how Sookie was 'gifted' her extraordinary power. She also finds a very specific hidden 'treasure' from the grandmother which is bound to come in handy later in the series. Happily she did not squander its one and only 'use'. Her great-uncle (Jason lookalike) comes to stay and is restoring the attic region - several light-hearted moments accompany this relationship and Sookie 'consciously' uncouples herself (sorry could not resist), with the aid of some witchcraft, from Erik! It's an easy read and I look forward to the next instalment with a bit more enthusiasm - July 2014

- Dead in the Family, another story trying desperately to expand into new territory and not failing miserably as such but failing. In previous books there is a hint that one of the characters may have been a certain very high profile American soul singer who served with the Army in Germany and died of an overdose - his widow subsequently appeared as Bobby and Ray's love interest in 'Dallas'. Their former residence, known as 'Gracelands' is now a shrine/museum (enough said?)! Anyway, we know from 'Men in Black' that this version can't be true (blood - ha ha! LOL) - I digress! The character, named from the start as the former Tsarevich Alexei Romanov, who appeared to bulk up this story, peaked my interest but it soon disintegrated as I did not enjoy the way the character was written up and the ending was unworthy, but then I think that the author has now totally lost her way and it isn't really surprising that the television series took an entirely different route - only about four books to go ...... - February 2014

- Dead and Gone, I read this one whilst in hospital as by then I was needing some light relief. Although the formula remains the same this time we are treated to some extended fairy information and a throw-back to the time when Sookie presided at the hotel convention when the 'supes' and vampires were attacked (see All Together Dead). The entire novel seems to be based on attempts to assassinate Sookie coming from expected and unconventional quarters - it leaves you wondering who can be trusted. Series 5 of True Blood has just concluded on television and so far it has not stayed with the books except for character names and supernatural behaviour ..... - October 2012

- Dead to Worse concentrates on the were-community and introduces two new family members for Sookie - her great-grandfather (pure fairy) and her late cousins' child (a telepath in the making) so that the saga has a reason to continue. We lose the were-tiger in this book as he switches allegiances and Sookie determines she cannot remain involved with him, the witches have their day with another ecto-reconstruction (it's a great and innovative idea but should not be over-used to solve crimes) and Bob the cat is reinstated to human form. It is good to see Sam playing a more prominent part, but regrettably nothing suggests that he will remain anything but the owner of Merlotte's bar. We get passing references to some former characters thereby keeping them alive. Is Charlaine running out of original ideas and just wanting to keep up the commercial aspect? - June 2012

- Definitely Dead is, chronologically the novel before All Together Dead (ATD), so I was a bit annoyed with myself for not having checked the sequence of the books. Reading them out of sequence certainly explained a few things that had confused me about ATD not least the relationship between Sookie and Sophie-Ann, Queen of Louisiana. This book reveals some intimate details of Sophie-Ann's past and explains why Sookie is living with a witch in the next book. As usual an entertaining read and the high point has to be the ecto-reconstruction! If you're not sure what this is - read the book! - January 2012

- All together Dead sends us back into the world of Vampires congregating to attend a trial, Trade Fair and some other supernatural negotiations. We encounter familiar 'supes', telepaths and some new inter-dimensional creations from the vivid imagination of the author. Frankly I was bored with the naughty witch who's transformation of a man into a cat was being frowned upon and the use of telepath Sookie as 'witness' to the murder of a Vampire King and thought-bodyguard until the (literally) explosive end! The last few chapters made up for the mundane and plodding first 2/3rds of the book - whatever next and how much longer can this series sustain itself? I still have several books to go. - December 2011

- Dead as a Doornail moves away from the world of Vampires and concentrates more on the Were-dwellers - it's not only wolves you know, there are were-panthers and in this book we even discover a Tiger - I had to laugh! I had to laugh in particular because in his human form the poor man is follicly challenged! At the start I didn't quite get into the rhythm of the book, maybe because there was a break in time before it was written - or maybe it was just me - another entertaining instalment in this unique and decidedly peculiar series - October 2011.

- Dead to the World, the fourth novel in this franchise is one of the most enjoyable so far in and a most enjoyable overall read outside of the series. It is entertaining, funny and how the author is going to bring back our interest in a major character who has been marginalised in this book I just don't know. I look forward to reading the 5th instalment later in the year - August 2011

- Club Dead is the third in the series that I have just completed with a certain amount of enjoyment not least because Bill, our heroine's 'boyfriend' doesn't really feature large, sorry Bill but for a 200-year old vampire you don't have too much substance at this time. I had to laugh out loud when the penny dropped as to a potential previous existence of 'Bubba' but as I have seen 'Men in Black' I know it can't be ...... or can it? Anyway, suffice to say I'm glad I didn't read the blurb on the back of the book before drawing my own conclusions. Eric the Vampire and Alcide the 'Were' (short for werewolf) are two very engaging characters in this particular episode of the saga. Enjoyable to read. - May 2011

- Having watched three series of the television adaptation, both Andrew and I were curious to see how the books would appeal to us. I gave Andrew the set for Christmas and he had read all ten books by the end of January - so not difficult reading then? I have decided not to read them in one go and have so far read the first book and am about to embark on the second. The book I have read is written in an easy style and having seen the television series I'm forming visual images based on what I've seen and it makes it easier to concentrate on the content of the books which are based around vampires in the main and other mythological creatures, not forgetting the odd human thrown in although humans don't really have much of a lead role here. Our heroine with the unfortunate name of Sookie Stackhouse is very much a humane character and very prone to stereotypical outbursts expected from a blonde waitress - a little unkind perhaps and there is a preoccupation with what she is dressed in on any particular occasion - or rather the lack of 'threads' as mostly her descriptions border on only this side of decency! The first book does not throw up much in terms of character profiles whereas the television series did - I'm hoping Jason will blossom into the complete Neanderthal with one brain cell that he plays in the television series, if he doesn't then that would be a real waste of a fabulous character in the making! I've now completed book 2 - the chronology is a bit confusing if you watch the TV series first and I really resented losing LaFayette at the start of this book - he's developed into such a great character in the TV series, hope Charlaine produces a character worthy of him later in the series. - April 2011.

'Ekaterinburg' by Helen Rappaport

Once I get onto a favourite topic I tend to read quite a lot about it, so I've chosen to read another book, in quick succession to the last, in order to see if the promise of new information about the Romanovs and their fateful last days is fulfilled. One of the reasons that I read so much about this period is that I still romantically believe that Anastasia might have survived. DNA has put paid to that dream but I am still not 100% convinced that the convenient finding of additional bones proves that the family died and were disposed of together. The book does fulfil its promise of new information right up to the penultimate chapter and then the final chapter and the postscript bursts the bubble rather and which I will comment on separately. The new information is a padding out of what is already known, but the author has sorted all the fragmented areas using original documentation and précised it into chronological sound-bites so that the reader shares a day at a time, over the last fourteen days or so, of every angle of the Romanovs existence and those with whom they shared it, willingly or unwillingly. The immediate criticism of the book that I have is not its content but the fact that the typeset is tiny - I'm all for saving paper but a lot of people with reading difficulties will be put off by this which is a shame because I was already already hooked after just the opening chapter! The other criticism is the conclusion, the events after the murder of the Royal Family (which is most certainly graphically described) are not written about as confidently as the rest of information and this is further reinforced by the authors notes and that damning last little bit of evidence which states that the 'DNA findings of the last bones was not conclusive at the time of publishing.' I think I need to re-read 'The Buckingham Palace Connection' by (Lord) Ted Willis. May - 2011

'Shindler's Ark' by Thomas Keneally

It has taken me a long time to get around to reading this book, maybe there was a reason for this - I don't really know. Recently a friend of mine, a teacher in Germany, stated that she felt it was correct that the film based on this book, Shindler's List, should be compulsory viewing for the current generation who are beginning to lose touch with the events of the 1939-45 conflict and the whole Nazi period which started in 1933. I have never enjoyed the film, it will not feature in my favourite film page as I am of the opinion that it is biased against the Poles in a vindictive way. The book, however, is more balanced, based on fact and written in fictional style which makes it universally easier to absorb. I think that if the book were compulsory reading it would have a longer lasting effect. It is not, by any means an easy read, but it describes much of what is already known to most people over the age of 35. - April 2011

'The Russian Court at Sea' by Frances Welch

This book has a slightly different take on the majority of the books written on the demise of the Romanovs, a particular interest of mine. It concerns what happened to the surviving members of the family including the Dowager Empress [Nicholas' mother] and Prince Felix Yusupov [one of those implicated in the murder of Rasputin].

It is a 'small' book in terms of content but shows a very humane side of the court heading for exile. The Book Reviews I read intimated that there was more in this book - in that respect I found it a bit of a disappointment, but in other respects I did learn more about the Romanovs. - March 2011

'The Glassblower of Murano', 'Madonna of the Almonds', 'The Botticielli Secret' and 'Daughter of Siena' by Marina Fiorato

- I've now read Daughter of Siena and I have to say that although there was a 'happy ending' of sorts, this sort of darkness and brutality are quite unappealing - it's a shame of course because I studied the art of this period and always found it beautiful, tasteful, light and hopeful - the antithesis is true of this book - September 2011.

- These books first came to my attention when Amazon sent me a book selection which featured 'The Botticielli Secret'. I looked up the author and decided to get all three books as each title held something of interest for me. Murano Glass, I know, is something special as my mother and sister treated themselves to a wine glass each whilst in Italy. The style is not to my taste, I prefer plainer, sleeker lines, but certainly this is an unique art form. The Madonna appealed to me from my Art History studies and of course Botticielli featured heavily in my History of Art degree which spanned 1320 to 1500 North European and Italian Early Renaissance. I nearly threw the towel in when I discovered the curriculum I would have to study as I would have much preferred the Impressionists - but I grew to love the period. The 'Glassblower' story didn't hold my attention and I felt the ending was a bit of a 'cop out.' The 'Madonna' story I enjoyed more and was glad that there was a more positive outcome to the struggle of the central character. I understood the shock tactics and use of foul language in the 'Botticielli' story but felt that an experienced author could have overcome this in a more sophisticated manner - this final book would have been the best and my favourite if not for the cheapness of the tactics. Although the style is easy to read and there is much colour in the descriptions and written with much love, I shall not be pursuing any further books by this author. - February 2011

The Matthew Shardlake Series : 'Dissolution', 'Dark Fire', 'Sovereign', 'Revelation', 'Heartstone', 'Lamentation' by C J Sansom

- Book 6 'Lamentation' - I was almost afraid of starting this book in case it was a disappointment, but I was lured into it by the splendid understated cover. I also had to shake off the style of Hilary Mantel who is telling the story of Thomas Cromwell to great acclaim, but whose style I find difficult. C J Sansom has a much easier style and we are transported to the life of those who lived outside the rarified atmosphere of the Tudor court. There are glimpses of court life as the 'plot' revolves around Katherine Parr, Henry VIIIs surviving wife/widow who by virtue of outliving Henry has her own special place in Tudor history. She was also well known for her compassion and by offering Elizabeth sanctuary in her home after the death of Henry, unwittingly taints Elizabeth eternally with a scandal involving her husband - the dashing Thomas Seymour. However the book does not get this far in Tudor history but it does end with the death of the King - what now for Matthew? Possibly Book 7 - but the events towards the end of this (more than usually violent in places) book will change the holistic nature of the principal characters in a manner which may never recover. I was shocked - I hadn't seen this coming - so that in itself makes this a book worth reading! - February 2015

- Book 5 'Heartstone' - a book too far, still with an interesting twist and the characters are familiar so an easy read - can't see there being a 6th ........ but there is (November 2014) and I will be reviewing soon.

- I was introduced to these books by my sister - we share a reading style and we have both paced ourselves to read these books sparingly, the latest I have read is the 4th book in the series 'Revelation' which brings us towards the end of King Henry VIIIs reign at a time when his eye has caught Catherine Parr in its sights. All the books have, without fail, held my attention which is why I have willingly continued with the series. Some of the descriptions are a little too vivid for my squeamish self, but to understand the period fully, sometimes an excess of description is necessary! My favourite to date is 'Dark Fire' as it concerns a topic that I am familiar with having read with enormous interest and curiosity the use of 'alchemy' by Joffrey de Peyrac in the 'Angélique' series by Anne Golon. These books are set in the 1700s, two hundred years after Henry and yet have an equally medieval approach to the sciences! I digress, 'Revelation' is a worthy 4th instalment in this series and I look forward to reading the 5th 'Heartstone' when I can prise it away from my sister. - January 2011

'Dreadnought with Good Manners' by Andy Merriman

The Biography of Margaret Rutherford - this book is not all 'happiness' and 'roses', in fact it is quite sad - but very revealing. Many comics have secretly unhappy lives, Margaret is amongst them. That she was big-hearted and appreciated by many a young actor starting out in his/her profession, she was also, regrettably often taken in by charlatans. Happily her life with Stringer Davis seemed to give her some personal fulfilment. The BBC recently (7th June 2011) broadcast an 'Afternoon Play' entitled 'A Monstrous Vitality' where Margaret Rutherford was played with great aplomb by June Whitfield, one of the great treasures of British Entertainment.

'The Glass Room' by Simon Mawer

I bought this book because of my interest in the Tugendhat House and was not disappointed. Simon Mawer has written a novel which is very close to what is known of the history of the building and I have since bought a reference book written by family members which echoes much of what is in this novel. Of course the Tugendhat Villa fell into disrepair, and like the iconic Midland Hotel in Morecambe had to wait a long time for someone to come forward and save this building from dereliction and total destruction. After I put the book down I felt that I wanted someone to write about the Midland in a similar manner to generate interest in something that should be preserved. A clever read and I shall be happy to re-read this again sometime in the future.

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Page updated : 10th October 2017 (G)