World Cup Of Books…

Finally a World Cup that everyone can get behind!!

It’s a tough call so I’m not sure what book I’ll be voting for, I don’t really have an out-and-out favourite.

You can find out more and find out how to place your vote by clicking on the link below.

http://worldcupofbooks.co.uk/

A Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett

This book is another masterpiece by Ken Follett, a story that stands alone instead of one of his epic trilogies.  I found it by chance when ordering the last book in his century trilogy and I’m glad I did.

It was full of suspense, murder and horrible people who you wanted to get their comeuppance. As I went to write this review I thought of what a good movie it would make and on googling the cover I noticed it has been turned into a TV movie released this year but it seems it was made for German TV. I hope one day it will find its way onto English TV!

As with all the books I’ve read by this author I couldn’t put it down and stayed up way too late wanting to read just one more page to see what would happen. It really has everything you could want from a novel Murder, Mystery, Suspense, Betrayal, Love, Manipulation, Wealth and Business.

I’ve been trying to coax all my friends who enjoy reading into exploring Ken’s work and I’ve finally found a book to introduce them that is smaller than the trilogy tomes and I’m sure by the end they’ll be working their way through the rest of the catalogue!

I’m on a self-imposed book buying ban as I have piles of unread books to wade through. But once I have it down to a few books I’ll be looking into the rest of the books Ken has written that I have yet to enjoy and diving in!

Tuesday Cinema Club: Dunkirk

I’m a fan of war movies, I watch quite a lot about all sorts of battles and one thing I love about them is that they teach you things and give you a better understanding of how the world works. That is where I feel this movie was a let down.

I thought it was good but not great. I’m not quite sure what all the 5* reviewers saw that I didn’t but clearly we have a gulf in opinion. If you don’t know the history behind what happened at Dunkirk you learn very little from this movie. There is no customary written intro and exit heralding the figures of such an achievement of human spirit and determination and I think that was greatly missing.

I would have loved at the end to know how many men were on the beach, how many returned, how many ships, boats and vessels retrieved them, how many planes covered them and a summary of what happened next. I think if you are highlighting a movie about what happened over the course of I think a week so important in history, that you could have taken the time to add a couple of written slides at the end giving you the figures.

I honestly don’t think any other country could have pulled off what we did that week. A call goes out that Englishmen are stranded on a beach in France and as many ships, boats, ferries and the like that can manage it head across the sea into a war zone – unarmed and unprepared with a moments notice, risking their own lives and livelihoods to bring them back. That is what needed to be made more of in this movie.

For those people sailing across most of them used their boats for work, if they got sunk or were killed that risked the lives of their families and the people who relied on their business. That is a hell of a thing. I know a lot of the ships were commandeered by the British Navy but I believe a lot of people joined in regardless to help out.

The movie made reference to the fact that we brought French soldiers back but I haven’t heard this before. Not that it showed you any French soldiers returning, the leader makes reference to them having to wait.

The one thing the movie lacks is the rawness of the situation given it shows no real injured soldiers, there are no dead bodies, even in the sea there is minimal floating debris and bodies following the sinkings. It shows the beach being bombed and the explosions and yet everyone gets up and back into line. When all the ships have gone the beach is empty, which is unrealistic.

There was reportedly around 400,000 men on that beach, there would have been weapons, vehicles, dead bodies, rubbish, shrapnel and all sorts lining the beach. Anyone who has lived with a man knows how much mess they can make so you can’t tell me 400,000 of them left the beach completely clear.

The flashback sequences weren’t very obvious either. It took me a minute to realise we were seeing the same part again from a different perspective and it was annoying a couple of times.

I don’t think it’s accurate that only 3 Spitfires were sent out to protect the boats. I know they wouldn’t have used everyone but 3 seems a bit light. Also due to the flashbacks it seems a Spitfire can drift for an extraordinarily long time with engine failure and damage.

Seeing the WW2 planes now gives me goosebumps, I can’t imagine how those men in the ships and fighting on the beaches and fields felt as those wings flew over to protect them. They really were a feat of engineering and without them we would have lost the war.

As a film it told a sanitized story of war from the perspective of the sea, beach and air. I don’t doubt it was based on things that happened and there were elements of risk shown but I think it could’ve been more realistic. I also wish they’d added an educational element at the end for all the young people watching who don’t know much about WW2.

For me it was good but I like a little bit more grit in my war films.

Tuesday Cinema Club: Despicable Me 3

From the start my enjoyment of the movie was spoiled by the kid behinds constant need to kick my seat and put his feet on the spare seat. When I was a kid my parents wouldn’t have let me do this and it annoys me that no one says anything to kids nowadays when they behave badly. Despite me voicing my annoyance and him sitting next to an adult they didn’t even try to stop him kicking the seat.

There is no need to put your feet on the seats or keep kicking someones seat, especially when you have enough leg room as it is, it’s just rude and inconsiderate of the people around you. The world could use a little more consideration and a little less self-importance. If you don’t learn consideration as a kid you certainly won’t learn it as an adult!

However, despite the rudeness of others I did enjoy the movie. It had the usual amount of silliness but there was enough to keep adults entertained too.

Gru meets his long-lost twin brother and the two of them undertake a heist together following in their Dad’s footsteps. It was everything you would expect a Despicable Me film to be. Including a hunt for unicorns, I mean who hasn’t wanted to meet a unicorn?!

 

More Moaning by Karl Pilkington

This book is another companion to the Moaning of Life Sky 1 series that Karl Pilkington creates. Had you not have seen the TV series you would still be able to follow the book as it includes still shots from the show.

The book is basically a guide for what happened behind the scenes and why he chose to explore the avenues he did in the TV show. I think this one covers the second series of the Moaning of Life and included some very weird and wonderful practices carried out around the world.

It’s a nice easy series to watch, you learn a few things and have a few laughs and the book is much the same.

Sometimes you just need some light entertainment for your mind and this sort of thing is perfect for that.

If you’re not a fan of Karl and his wonderful way of viewing the world then this book really isn’t for you!

Edge Of Eternity by Ken Follett

This is the final book in The Century Trilogy starting in 1961 and bringing you right up to date with world affairs.

I loved the whole of the Trilogy and I think I learned a lot from how wars were undertaken and the effects they had on different people from all around the world.

In this book when they talk about the assassinations of President and Bobby Kennedy I developed a new understanding of the impact of the events on the time. I think like most people I have an interest in finding out what really happened to the Kennedy’s and I’ve watched numerous TV shows and documentaries portraying the family from the inside but also analysing the events of the shootings and no one seems to agree on anything. For someone born almost 20 years after the assassinations I still find it interesting.

That is the thing with history, it has always piqued my interest and books like this series allow me to understand events in a human way that teaching and documentaries don’t offer you. The characters in the book are just that and I’m sure what happened to them is based on facts that happened to people at the time but I don’t think such a small demographic of people could have been so unlucky to have so much sadness happen to their families.

I also don’t doubt that the historical evidence in the books are also heavily based on facts and some of the people are undoubtedly real but by adding characters to real situations you make what happened human rather than a history lesson of fact.

I think it’s a better way of teaching and the school curriculum should look to ways of making what you learn much more real-time for today’s world. Young people now are very much digitally minded as opposed to us who went to school before the internet who are still wired to learn in an analogue way deep down. A lot of the kids of today will turn their back on books because they don’t provide instant gratification that can be found in a YouTube video and I think it’s a shame.

As a child I would read multiple books at a time and a trip to the library always resulted in armfuls of books and borrowing space on other family members cards so I could get everything I wanted. I think a lot of kids today are missing out on knowing the excitement of that simple thing.

If you are interested in world history but don’t want to read historical books which can be very technically challenging then this series is perfect for you. You’ll come out with a whole new understanding of the mentality of war and how power corrupts people’s thinking and it is often the poorest people who suffer.

The world is ever changing but one thing that has never been learned is how pointless war is in the long-term. All wars at their heart punish innocent people, in the ideals of those in power, trying to enforce their decisions on the wider populace.

War is a money-making game to the big government powers and that is what will always fuel the conflicts. The big superpowers would all be poor in peace and that is a sad reality of life.

The older I get the more I am becoming accustomed to terrorism as a part of life and for anyone to say that is a sad view on what humans have become. That anyone thinks they have a right to kill people with different beliefs because it is their gods will, misses the point of religion. All religion is based in the hope that if we live by a certain set of rules we will be granted a restful afterlife, it is designed to stop people fearing death which comes to us all. Violence and hatred have no part in religion which is designed to teach love and tolerance for your fellow-man. I say all this as an atheist who believes that with no religion there would be less war.

Let’s all choose to learn from the mistakes of the rulers throughout history and not keep repeating them, like The Who once said “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”. Lets all choose love!

A Place To Call Home by Carole Matthews

This book was very easy to read and managed to keep me hooked through some long nights of reading as I was unable to put the book down. In the end I think I finished it in about 4 days.

It is the story of a beaten wife who leaves her abusive husband in the middle of the night with their child, struck mute from the horror she has witnessed.

They find shelter in a house with a mixed bag of damaged adults existing rather than living in a house in Hampstead.

I could say that it’s a story of love and hope and it has a happy ending but it is more than that. Unusually it had surprises lurking in the pages, even to the point where my heart raced desperate to turn the page and start the next chapter – convinced I knew what would happen, only to be sent down completely the wrong path and breathing a big sigh of relief.

It’s a lovely story and it touches your heart. I would say with holiday season on the horizon you could do a lot worse than spending a day in the sun reading a book like this.

Naked Heat by Richard Castle

This is another in the series of books that spun off from the TV series Castle.

As a fan of the show I enjoy reading the books, especially now the series has ended. They are easy to read which is nice sometimes when you want a quick read.

This is the story of the investigation into the death of a high-profile celebrity gossip columnist which leads the team to investigate another celebrity death.

The story takes a bit of a turn when they start investigating the pop star girlfriend of the male actor who died previously and how she was connected to the death of the celebrity columnist. Don’t they say that everyone knows everyone when you’re famous!

One key thing Detective Heat is passionate about is working the timeline to find answers and that is something I think most writers can relate to. It often yields results.

I don’t think you need to be a fan of the TV show to enjoy the books but they are probably a little light for fans of heavy crime novels. Not bad for a quick holiday read on the beach though.

You Are Dead by Peter James

This book is another in the Roy Grace series but I don’t think I have been reading them in order, I’m not sure it makes much difference. The characters progress through the series and there is an element of linking but the investigation is mostly unique to the book.

This is the story of the hunt for a killer who brands his victims with You Are Dead. It takes a while to link all the cases together and work the timeline back to cold cases but it winds up to a dramatic ending past anything you could expect.

There is also a new lead to follow on the whereabouts of Roy Grace’s first wife. This sees him confronting some long-held feelings at a time when he believes he is moving on with his life after finally being able to declare his wife dead.

I don’t read much in this genre but these books are easy to read and hold your attention throughout. They are obviously written with an inside knowledge of policing due to the level of information provided which makes them more believable.

I’m sure I’ll read more of the series in the future, just maybe not in order!

Have You Ever Been Asked To Provide A Service Review?…

I know we are all asked to review service everywhere we go from Superdrug to your local restaurant and normally they offer you the chance to win £100 for leaving a review.

That isn’t the kind of review I mean, let me explain…

I recently went to a furniture shop to order a new settee. On completing the purchase we were told by the sales rep that we would be contacted by text for a review of the service we received. We were then asked to rate it as a 9 or 10 as anything below a 9 resulted in the rep being hauled in front of their supervisor for a debrief.

Now this put me in a quandary. As a shopper I make most of my purchases, as do most people online. I took the decision a long time ago to not review any purchases as it meant I would save myself half a lifetime in writing reviews. So whether something is good or bad I say nothing.

The same for shops who ask me to review to enter a prize draw, it always goes in the bin. I’ve worked in a shop and I know how hard it is to maintain a sunny disposition all day long and not look like you would rather be anywhere else but there. I don’t think people need to be pulled up over it. Some people see shop workers as their own personal servants and talk to them as if they are something you scrape off your shoe. The customer is always right, as the saying goes, only they are usually wrong and refuse to accept it.

So faced with the text message asking me to review my service of said furniture purchase I was torn between sticking to my guns and deleting without reviewing and helping the sales rep out. Even though the very suggestion of being asked to leave a certain review made me want to add into the comments – I left this review as I was told to.

When I thought about the service we received that day it wasn’t the best. We’d looked around 4 furniture stores in a row and came back to this one to order. The first time we were in there we had been approached for help we didn’t need at that time. As I predicted when we went back to order there was no one free to be seen. I wandered the store 3 times and then tried to log on to the website on my phone to do the order myself, only to find the website was practically unusable in the mobile version.

At this point my Mum came back from the hardware store next door and said she had seen someone not doing anything and called the guy over. We eventually placed the order after going through all the questions and possible extras. Then came the request for a review.

The honest thing to do would have been to say I was less than happy with the service I received and yet once we had a rep helping us it was all done with no fuss. The guy was good at his job and that was what made me feel guilty enough to leave a review.

I wondered if he had bad reviews in the past and if he was trying to avoid more trouble or if he was just playing at my heart-strings. It seemed harsh picturing him trying to explain why he didn’t give us a better service to his superiors.

But then it makes a mockery of the whole thing. It’s probably a company directive to avoid them getting negative reviews. I’m sure they are listed somewhere on the website or at least collated for company purposes.

If you are providing good service then you shouldn’t have to tell people to review you at a 9 or 10 as they will happily do it. As we all know the professional review writers and people who love to have a soap box will write in depth reviews on who to speak to and what day is best to get them. I find product and service reviews now are not as reliable as they were, especially when most are paid for writing them.

Sadly my review was just as redundant, I gave 9 out of 10 as I never review anything at the highest mark. There is always room for improvement. If it was up to me I wouldn’t have reviewed at all but due to not being able to find anyone to help us for about 20 minutes an accurate review would be 6 or 7/10!

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