Tag Archives: book review

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.


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.

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!

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!

Time and Time Again by Ben Elton


I’ve always been a fan of Ben Elton’s writing but I seem to have lost track of it in the last couple of years. I saw this by accident when looking for Christmas presents for others and added it to my wish list. From the jacket it appears that I have missed one of his books being released so I need to get myself a copy of that now.

This book hooked me in and I didn’t want to stop reading. The story of a time traveller, trying to alter the course of history by changing the worst thing that happened is interesting.

How could you know if you were really making things better or not by altering the truth?

That is exactly what the book explores. There are twists and turns which keep you hooked. The characters are likeable and you become attached to their story.

It does make you think about whether or not time travel would be a good thing and what you would do if you were faced with similar choices. Maybe by the end you’ll be challenging your own earlier thoughts on the matter.

If you like a good, well written story with lots of drama then I think you will enjoy this.

The Mystery Of The Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine


I brought this book with a gift voucher I was given by a friend for my birthday last year. I just went into Waterstones and picked a couple of books that caught my eye.

I really enjoyed this book. It reminded me of the kinds of book I would read as a child. I could imagine reading it as a bed time story and being asked for one more chapter before bed!

It was a detective story based in a Edwardian department store which had me picturing Selfridges the whole time. The characters are easily imagined and believable and you get drawn into the story and choosing who you want to see come out on top.

I’m doing a children’s writing course at the moment and my tutor keeps advising me to read more children’s books to get into the modern elements of the genre. I’m glad I chose this book as it gave me some ideas of where I would like my own writing to go.

On reading Wikipedia I find it is the first book in a quartet of Sinclair’s Mysteries (the department store in the book) so if your children like this book then there are more in the series to enjoy.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


I have to admit I saw the movie before I read the book. I couldn’t swear that I knew about the book before I watched the movie, I don’t remember anyone talking to me about reading the book at the time.

Reading the book having watched the movie I was reading it as the movie characters. I knew what was going to happen and therefore the twists and turns lost their impact on me.

That being said, there are elements of the book, as there usually are, that are portrayed differently on film. There was an element of me reading it as ‘this was different in the film’.

I did enjoy the book, I think it’s really well written but I have to say watching the film first spoiled a lot of it for me. I’ve not encountered that with any other book I’ve read after watching the film to this degree.

I won’t talk about the plot because it’s hard to explain it and make it sound interesting without giving away the key parts. If you take out all the important stuff and break it down it just sounds like any other story but it’s much more than that.

If I could do it again I would read the book then see the movie, I think that would give you the biggest impact of the story. If you like dark themes then I think this would appeal to you.

Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Heat Wave

I’m a fan of the TV show Castle so when I saw a box set of 3 of the Nikki Heat books from the show I had to see what it was all about. I’m sure I read somewhere that the books were written by Nathan Fillian who plays Richard Castle in the show but it seems there is a lot of speculation over the author. I like to think he wrote the books anyway.

I think it was an interesting move by the shows makers to bring out the books that are referred to throughout the shows. It’s obviously a money spinner but it also adds another element to it.

I enjoyed the book. As I was reading it I was seeing the actors in the show playing the characters they are based on and that is kind of the point. It was a quick read but sometimes you want something quite short to fill time.

I think you would still be able to enjoy the book if you have never seen the show as it isn’t really about that. What you need to know is all covered. If you are used to reading die-hard crime fiction then this is probably not going to appeal to you but if you prefer your crime a little more light-hearted then go for it!

I have another 2 books in the series to read so I’ll look forward to seeing if they’re just as good as this one!

I think they have finished making Castle now which means another one of my favourite shows has bitten the dust but at least the reruns are on most of the time!

See Me by Nicholas Sparks


I love reading Nicholas Sparks novels. They hook you right in and before you know it you’re reading way past your bedtime, hoping to get to the end of the next chapter before you fall asleep.

This book was no exception. I loved the damaged characters and their complicated lives. I loved that it wasn’t the usual boy meets girl and they live happily ever after. As we know in real life it doesn’t always happen that way!

As with most of my reviews I don’t like to give away too much of the story as I think it spoils it if you know what is going to happen. That said as with most stories of this kind some of it you see coming and others is a curve ball surprise you don’t quite catch up with until the reveal.

I can see why a lot of his novels get turned into movies. The depth of character and challenging circumstances make for page turning reading but also a dramatic cinema experience.

The Notebook was my first experience of Nicholas Sparks. I remember seeing the movie trailer on TV with my sister and both of us laughing at how silly it sounded. That was until we both separately saw the movie after it’s DVD release. We couldn’t have been more wrong. It hooked us both and we regularly watch the movie now. I came across the book in a shop a long while after and once I read it I realised I preferred the movie. Since then I have mostly read the books before seeing the movies or watched the movie but not realised it was originally a book.

There are only so many ways you can write love stories, the differences lie in the characters, their back stories, and the way they are brought together. But that is what makes a well written romance story so good. Because everyone who reads it will feel something different. Some will empathise with their own personal experiences and others may look at it and wonder where their own knight in shining armour is.

Me personally, I find a comfort in these sorts of movies and books. I don’t like to watch them in groups, I like to sit and enjoy them alone so I can wonder. I often shed a few tears and eat chocolate, but that’s why I watch them. Because every now and again I feel a good cry helps to level me out and makes me feel better.

Having been in love with someone for 3 years who will probably never care for me in return I like the hope that I get from these books. It reminds me that sometimes no matter how hopeless a situation seems a new day can bring a change in events and things can work out how you always hoped. I also guard myself against the fact that our love may always be one-sided and I can live with that as long as I have my friend.

We all have an inbuilt need to be loved or at least accepted by other people. Sometimes no matter how hard you love someone it is never enough. But that’s what makes love so special when you find it. Anything that makes you feel that good should be worth a little effort!

Tony Hadley: To Cut A Long Story Short


I love Spandau Ballet, they made some brilliant songs. I was too young in the 80’s to fully appreciate them in all their glory but as an adult I’ve seen them live twice and would definitely go again. One of the big things I like about them is Tony’s voice, it just makes me smile.

I found this book really interesting. It seems very open and honest and discusses the various legal wranglings that went on between mostly Tony and Gary Kemp. It ended up changing my opinion of Gary in the end. I always thought he was a nice down to earth guy but in this book he comes across as holding a vendetta against the other members of the group which seems wholly ridiculous.

Its worth pointing out that the legal elements of this book are all told from one side but the fact it was printed must mean that the facts have been checked somewhere along the lines. For example suing 3 ex members of the band for calling themselves Ex-Spandau Ballet seems baffling when that is indeed what they are and when someone you grew up with needs to make a bit of money what’s the harm? Who knows how many records were sold on the back of those performances?!

But it isn’t all about the bad times. The book starts at the very beginning and the more you learn the stranger the later events appear. The copy I have was updated to the point of Tony receiving a request to reform the band in 2005 for a comeback tour and by the end he hadn’t made a decision. Seeing what went before it would seem impossible that they ever managed to reform, I would imagine that a pretty in depth contract was drawn up this time before it did.

If you like reading music biographies then I would recommend this book. Even if you aren’t especially a Spandau fan there is still a lot of interesting stories that show the other side of what is seen as a glamorous career.

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