18 Aug 2017

(SLOUGH HOUSE/JACKSON LAMB THRILLER #1): SLOW HORSES.

SLOW HORSES by MICK HERRON.

BACK COVER BLURB: Slough House is a dumping ground for members of the intelligence service who've screwed up: left a service file on a train, say, blown a surveillance, or become drunkenly unreliable. They're the service's poor relations - the slow horses - and most bitter among them is River Cartwright, whose days are spent transcribing mobile phone conversations.

 But when a young man is abducted, and his kidnappers threaten to behead him live on the internet, River sees an opportunity to redeem himself. But is the victim who he first appears to be? And what's the kidnappers' connection with a disgraced journalist? As the clock ticks on the execution, River finds that everyone involved has their own agenda ...

FIRST SENTENCE {1}: This is how River Cartwright slipped off the track and joined the slow horses.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {PAGE 138}: The kitchen wasn't anywhere you'd want to cook a meal. On the other hand, it wasn't anywhere a meal had been cooked; its surfaces piled with takeaway containers and plastic cutlery, with greasy brown paper bags and pizza boxes, with empty soft drink bottles and discarded cigarette packets.  Ashtrays had been made out of anything that didn't move.

SOURCE: A book club read.

READ FOR: Not applicable.

MY THOUGHTS: Hmm! Where to begin? The size of print seems as good a place as any.

I can't speak for every format/edition but this, a 2016 John Murray paperback copy, had incredibly small print. Not something that in years gone by would have put me off a book much less led me to comment on it but, my eye sight not being what it once was, despite glasses, I struggled.

Anyway ... to the book.

An OK read. I'm not sure how much of the satire (to say nothing of the metaphors and hypothethicals of which the book is full of) went over my head but then this tends to be the case with humour, you either get it ... or you don't. 

Full of various 'slow horses' (spies who have basically screwed up in one way or another). Despite my best intentions I'm afraid at times I simply couldn't help but think of a spectrum comprising Mr Bean from his least gawky to his, well, not quite (but almost) most gawky. No bad thing given that it is these characters, this motley crew of the overweight, the ill-mannered, the down-right incompetent, rather than the plot, that made the book for me.


17 Aug 2017

THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY: AND THE NORTH ANTRIM COAST.

A natural phenomenon that fascinates me. On a recent visit to Northern Ireland Mr T was lucky enough to visit, bringing me back this book ...


THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY: AND THE NORTH ANTRIM COAST by PHILIP WATSON.

BACK COVER BLURB: With a wealth of recent research into the landscape, history, folklore, wildlife and underwater world, this fully updated and extended edition of The Giant's Causeway is the definitive guide to one of Ireland's most fascinating natural and cultural wonders.

The Giant's Causeway on Ireland's north Antrim coast is a place where myth and science meet. For over 300 years visitors have pondered the choice between giants and geology.

From tales of the Irish giant, Finn MacCool, and his building of the huge stone causeway, to the ancient and mysterious cooling of lava to form the basalt columns, The Giant's Causeway takes the reader on an illustrated tour of the history, folklore, people, geology, wildlife, and stunning landscape of this unique place.

FIRST SENTENCE {INTRODUCTION: WELCOMING THE WORLD}: Where the north coast of Ireland faces the Atlantic Ocean, with Scotland visible across the water on clear days, a huge pavement of symmetrical columns of a dark rock called basalt descends from the base of high cliffs into the water.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: Because of the nature of the book I'm unable to supply my Memorable Moment in full but suffice to say it concerns the myth of two rival giants, the Irish Finn MacCool and the Scottish, Benandonner. TT

SOURCE: A gift from Mr T.

READ FOR: Not applicable.

MY THOUGHTS: I hold my hands up, Geography/Geology was never my favourite subject at school so if ever it was covered I certainly never took any real interest in the miracle that is the Giant's Causeway.

However the merest whisper of a giant (let alone two) and I'm all ears so as you can imagine the story of Finn MacCool having a spot of bother with his Scottish neighbour, the giant Benadonner, which resulted in the myth of how the Causeway came to be totally fascinated me. 

With, amongst others, chapter headings such as .. 
  • 'From the Myths and Legends: Facts and Fiction' 
  •  'Landscape and Wildlife' 
  •  'Making a Living: Local Life and Natural Resources'
  •  'Shore, Sea and Shipwrecks: Above and Below the Waves' ...
AND topics that include everything from 
  • The myths that precede science
  • The local industries over the years such as smuggling, mining and farming 
  • Details of the various Causeway walks and what you might expect to see ... and so much more 
The Giant's Causeway is a highly readable and informative read with some truly amazing photographs of this natural and cultural phenomenon.


14 Aug 2017

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS.

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by KENNETH GRAHAME.

ALMA.CO.UK BOOK BLURB: Depicting the adventures of Rat, Mole, Badger and the pretentious Mr Toad, The Wind in the Willows sees these four animals getting into all sorts of trouble as they wander along the river, through the Wild Wood and around the grand Toad Hall.

Adapted for the stage by A.A. Milne as Toad of Toad Hall, and recreated for film and TV numerous times, Kenneth Grahame’s tale has been an essential part of every English child’s formative reading for over a century, with new generations of readers succumbing to its charm, wit and wonder.

FIRST SENTENCE (CHAPTER ONE): The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: The book was passed on to two young readers of my acquaintance before I could make a note of my Memorable Moment but I do remember my childhood favourite moments involved Mr Toad. TT

SOURCE: Received from Alma Books. Buy a copy by clicking here or, for amazon.co.uk, by clicking on the book title.

READ FOR: Not applicable.

MY THOUGHTS: Another one of my childhood favourites (and indeed one of the few books I've read and re-read as an adult countless times since then) lovingly re-published as part of Alma's Classics collection. 

Whether this be an old favourite of yours or your a new-comer to the adventures of Mole, Ratty, Badger and co, whether your a parent/grandparent revisiting the river bank with a child or indeed a child exploring it for the first time by yourself, whether your enjoying it as merely a story of everyday country folk or as a homily to the bond of friendship or, indeed, as a parable about class struggle/social order, once read the Willows and its motley collection of wonderful characters will never be forgotten.

Yes, I could write any numbers of adjectives to sum up my enjoyment of the book. Yes, reading it over the years, I grew to realise just how many insights into the human condition there were ...  Mr Toad and his mid-life crisis, Ratty and his mild depression - I could go on. However, the one thing that remains a constant is just how gloriously whimsical the whole thing is.


10 Aug 2017

(THE MIDWIFE SERIES #1): THE MIDWIFE'S REVOLT.

A book read by Kelly (see her review here) and fellow members of the Arkansas Book Club way back in 2016. I'd like to thank North Tyneside Libraries for purchasing a copy of the book along with others in the series.

THE MIDWIFE'S REVOLT by JODI DAYNARD.

BACK COVER BLURB: On a dark night in 1775, Lizzie Boylston is awakened by the sound of cannons. From a hill south of Boston, she watches as fires burn in Charlestown, in a battle that she soon discovers has claimed her husband’s life.

Alone in a new town, Lizzie grieves privately but takes comfort in her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams. Soon, word spreads of Lizzie’s extraordinary midwifery and healing skills, and she begins to channel her grief into caring for those who need her. But when two traveling patriots are poisoned, Lizzie finds herself with far more complicated matters on her hands—she suspects a political plot intended to harm Abigail and her family. Determined to uncover the truth, Lizzie becomes entangled in a conspiracy that could not only destroy her livelihood—and her chance at finding love again—but also lead to the downfall of a new nation.

FIRST SENTENCE {CHAPTER 1}: October 18, 1818. My father once told me I had the mind of a man

MEMORABLE MOMENT {PAGE 27/28}: Rumours abounded, as well, about my mother and myself: that she had practiced in the alchemical arts, and that I myself grew strange plants in my garden and made powerful potions and poisons. This last is partly true. I grew deadly nightshade, whose derivative belladonna, served me well for stubborn cervixes. I enjoyed delicious tomatoes as well, the seeds of which a friend of my mother's sent her from Europe.

SOURCE: A library book.

READ FOR: Not applicable.

MY THOUGHTS: Wow, an epic read. A little lightweight when compared to other books of this genre that I've read and it didn't always draw me in as it might have but still ...

Kind, gentle, knowledgeable in the healing arts and able to ride like a man when needs must. Alas, despite this, I found Lizzie, the Midwife of the title, a bit, well, wishy-washy, her revolt somewhat lacking.

Well researched if the end notes are any kind of testimony. It's just a shame that to me it was this very attention to detail that in some ways let the novel down.These at times wearisome details that slowed the pace of the novel. 

Given these statements it may surprise you to learn that I actually enjoyed this novel, not as much as I might have and certainly not enough that I wanted to continue with the series but enjoy it I nevertheless did.