Category Archives: Books

A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England by Suzannah Lipscomb

I find the Tudor Period interesting and this book was a nice take on where to visit in England to experience the remaining architecture and points of significance.

Its written in a way that connects you to the Tudors, explaining where they visited and the significance of the designs they chose to surround themselves with.

In Elizabethan times for example houses were built-in an E shape in the hope that the Queen would grant the owner a royal visit. Although this was a double-edged sword as the cost of a royal visit ended up bankrupting some of the loyal subjects. But the promise of climbing the social ladder and reaching a status above what you were born into and pass on to generations of your name was what drove the noble to fall over themselves in support of the monarchy.

I have visited some of the places in the book and added some to my bucket list of places to visit. But the thing that struck me that I overlook when I visit these places is that I may well be standing in the same spot Henry VIII or Elizabeth I stood and in that moment I connect with the past. Although I’m sure the external views will be dramatically different and the houses are cleaner and more hygienic now, the past is sometimes a nice place to get lost in.  Although I’m not sure any of us would want to live there forever.

If you are interested in the Tudors or architecture and you’re looking for some new places to visit this book will certainly give you a few ideas.

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Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

I saw the movie of this book when it was in the cinema which was a good few years ago now so when I was reading the book I was picturing the actors in the film. I couldn’t remember who played the lesser characters, I could only picture the main ones which I guess is fitting.

It’s such a unique story, you don’t get many books written about the American travelling rail road circuses of the 1920/ 30’s and yet as you read it you wonder what other untold stories there are.

A circus is a wonderful sight with animals and humans performing together but sadly something that is not so acceptable in the modern world. At their height when there wasn’t such a wealth of entertainment available at the touch of a button they were something to see.

Imagine not having a TV or the internet but knowing that once a year the circus will pull into your home town and entertain you with animals you’d never get the chance to see in your life turning up on your doorstep. I can imagine how exciting that must be.

The book uses elements of stories from a range of circuses of the time and elaborates to fit the narrative. Including the effects of the liquor ban and the unscrupulous moonshine makers who ended up killing hundreds of thousands of people with poisonous liquor.

But it’s the way the book brings to life the Elephant, Rosie that keeps you hooked. It reaches into the heart of that huge animal and displays an almost human like manner. It refers to her smiling at Jacob and an understanding between the two of them once he realises she speaks Polish. It’s hard to imagine an animal only being able to understand one language but a lot of humans only understand one language, the one you were born into. So I guess an elephant raised as a cub in Poland, connecting sounds to actions is not that far-fetched an idea. In no way could she be seen as a dumb animal given how naughty she is when she’s misunderstood.

It’s such a heart warming story with elements of sadness and how very real and ugly life can be for some people. I’m not sure if reading the book without seeing the movie paints as vivid a picture but I certainly enjoyed it having already seen the film. I couldn’t remember everything that was going to happen as it was such a long time ago since I saw the film which was nice.

I would recommend both the film and the book.

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!

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!

Winter of the World by Ken Follett

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Winter of the World is the follow on book from Fall of Giants in the Century of Giants Trilogy.

We pick up the same characters dealing with the aftermath of the first world war and watch them all try to navigate their way through their own particular hell in the second world war.

The book moves from the UK, to France, to Germany, to Russia, to America, to Pearl Harbour and back again so seamlessly tracking the characters on their travels.

You were connected to the characters in the first book and this continues on through the second. You want to keep reading to see what happened to them. The amount of detail makes you feel like you’re personally there.

I would imagine a lot of the historical content is accurate but that some of it is manipulated to include the fictional people. To be able to keep track of what is happening in different parts of the world to different characters at the same time and to keep the stories flowing takes a level of skill most of us could only dream of.

I can’t wait to read the final instalment in the series (Edge of Eternity) to see how the lives of the people I feel I know turn out. Although the book was over 800 pages long it in no way felt laboured to read, in fact it is the opposite, too hard to put down!

I found my copy of this book in the poundshop one day last year and I have to say it’s a travesty that it was there at all but my very good fortune to find it. I’m off now to order the last book.

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