Tag Archives: book review

Cross Country by James Patterson

This book is from the Alex Cross series. It centres around the investigation of a brutal murder in the US that takes Alex Cross to Africa hunting the killer.

But he quickly finds he has stepped into more than he can manage. In searching for a killer he becomes hunted himself and the murders pile up around him.

Will he be able to save himself and his family whilst catching the killer and the people working behind him? Only time will tell.


Sail by James Patterson

I really enjoyed this book. It was so easy and quick to read, I ate the pages up.

The story surrounds a family holiday taken to reunite a wayward family but before they can even start to argue among themselves disaster strikes. They must be the most unlucky family in the world, because it just keeps getting worse.

There wasn’t much in the way of plot twists, it pretty much ends the way you thought it would but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the journey.

You need all sorts of books in your life. Sometimes you want to dive into an epic, others you want a read that flies by quickly that you don’t need to pour attention into. This is the latter and there is nothing wrong with that.

It was part of a 3 book box set and I’m already half way through another one of the books in the box. I’m actually starting to see a dent forming in my ‘to read’ pile. I’ve promised myself I won’t buy any more books until I’ve got down to the last few to read and I’m sticking to the promise at the moment. Finally getting through books that have been waiting to be read for years is very satisfying.

Danny Baker Autobiography Vol 3: Going On The Turn

The last in the autobiography series was just as easily digested as all the rest. Although this book had less in the way of funny stories and was more about how life can take a cruel turn sometimes.

Most of this volume focuses on Danny’s battle with cancer and he is very open and honest about what treatment is like in a way I think most people wouldn’t begin to imagine. Whilst it doesn’t make for an entertaining read at times it does connect you on a human level.

How many of us know people who have gone through their own health battles and tried to offer what we feel is support in some way. I think sometimes reading honest accounts like this help not only the people directly going through the treatment but also the people around them that are affected in varying degrees.

Because cancer doesn’t just affect one person, they get all the symptoms and treatment but the range of people it affects is much wider than that. Sometimes the immediate family and carers also need to be supported while the person they’ve known all their life changes into someone they never met before for a time.

I’m glad I read these books as I think I learned something from them. I bought into the journey and laughed and cried my way through it in to the very end.

If you enjoy the books then why not follow Danny on Twitter, he can be quite entertaining at times!

Hornet Flight by Ken Follett

I really enjoyed this book. I love the way you get drawn into the characters and ate up the pages eager to see how it all worked out.

It’s set in the second world war and instead of centring around England and Germany it firmly focuses on Denmark and how the Nazi occupation brought about change in the country.

It surrounds efforts made by the English Secret Services and Danish Rebels keen to take back control of their own country. With Bomber Command suffering devastating loss of planes, the powers that be in England look to ways of saving the fleet, in order to draw German forces from the Russian onslaught to change the direction of the war.

Whereas most secret service employees and military masterminds are men this book has a woman leading the charge. Being of English Heritage but fluent in Danish sets her apart from the competition and elevates her to a position previously unheard of.

The lengths she goes to in order to provide intelligence to the English Government through her network of Nightwatchmen in Denmark provides the answer to how to protect Bomber Commands precious planes.

In the end the secret is placed in the hands of the most unlikely pair to go up against such mortal danger. If they can manage to get the secret photo’s out of Denmark from right under the noses of the Germans it could change the fate of the war forever.

All in all a good book to finish the year. I would recommend it and as usual Ken Follett did not disappoint.

The Harbour by Francesca Brill

I first heard about this book after attending a writing workshop as part of the Chorleywood Literary Festival probably 2 years ago now. I got my copy signed by the author on the day who was helping us with our writing skills.

It’s a love story based in the time of the Japanese occupation of China. The characters show a range of people and how the war affected them in different ways.

I have to say I didn’t take to the story as I have with most books I read. I didn’t feel invested in the story and my enjoyment stalled because of it. I got a bit more invested towards the end but the middle was a bit lacklustre for me.

I also found a couple of spelling mistakes and name changes and once I notice that in a book, which happens more than you would expect I lose a bit of interest.

Not every book is going to appeal to every person and I’m sure there are people who loved it. But for me it was lacking something that really pulled me into the story and made me care about what happened to the characters in the book.

Someone Like You by Roald Dahl

I haven’t read a Roald Dahl book since I was a kid so it was nice to read one of his adult books.

I took this book on holiday with me and it was ideal with a collection of short stories to dip in and out of.  Plenty of twists and turns and suspicious people to keep you interested.

It was interesting how much of Buckinghamshire features in the stories. As a child I’d never heard of Buckinghamshire but as an adult I’ve spent a fair bit of time visiting the Chiltern Hills so I could almost picture the places in the stories.

I would definitely recommend it, especially if you enjoyed his books as a child. This book was given out as part of World Book Night to be forwarded on and chart its travels so I hope the next person enjoys it as much.

A Place Called Freedom by Ken Follett

This book is based on the fortunes of a coal miner, the family who own his mine and the family who live next door.

Not content with being a miner all his life and wanting something better for him and his twin sister he seeks a way of finding his freedom. He writes to a lawyer in London who informs him that the law is on his side and that of all miners.

As long as they don’t work more time than the law allows they can choose to be free. Only as a mine owner with wealth and standing you naturally wouldn’t want your workers to find out they can be free so they seek to quash him.

As time passes they realise letting him go whilst giving the appearance of him escaping is the best thing to do to ensure that the rest of the workers toe the line.

Time passes and their fates are entwined again in London years later. A marriage now on the cards between the two wealthy families but a connection remains between the wayward miner and the head of the neighbouring house. She who aided his escape when it looked like he might drown in the river on the night he escaped to his freedom.

Fate keeps bringing these elements together and even when it looks like the mine owners have finally broken him they end up taking the problem with them to the new world of America.

As a marriage gift and under some duress the mine owner grants his second son by marriage a failing tobacco plant in Virginia in the hope that he and his headstrong wife will disappear and allow him to rescue his failing mining business by mining her neighbouring land, something she would never agree to.

The family in addition to mining have a shipping business, sending convicts as slaves to wealthy British landowners in Virginia willing to pay for labour or to purchase a British wife.

The married couple end up claiming the miner as a labourer for their land. Along with the man who plotted with the noble families to get him arrested and convicted in the first place. As you can image this doesn’t work out well for them.

Not least because they won’t listen to the tried and tested methods of the families around them who are making their plantations work. The wife seeks to learn from them and better the position of their plantation but as a female her voice is drowned out by male pride and prejudice.

When she looses her child it is the miner and not her husband who comes to her aid, he who showed himself to be trustworthy throughout her life compared to the man she married who plotted against her and allowed stubbornness and ignorance to make their position more unsalvageable.

When the harvest fails and he is left bankrupt with no prospect of borrowing money a glimmer of hope appears to him in the form of his mother. Travelling across the ocean to deliver news of his fathers passing and a way of accessing vast sums of money and the inheritance his father denied him throughout his life. His father believed that the wealth came from the family of his first wife and as such only promised it to the son from that marriage.

But in the background his jealous brother plotted with his father against him. They allowed the noose of his vices to push him into debt and despair so that they could leave him broken and destitute.

That is unless he has a child before a year passes from his father’s death. His mother bringing this news in the same breath as telling him that his wife has left the plantation for good with none other than the miner.

He gathers his meanest men and head off the beaten trails looking for his wife. If not to bed her and bear a child but to murder her so he can bed a more willing girl, marry her and claim his inheritance.

After days of tracking them the parties meet on reservation lands. One group to fall to their fate, the other to find their freedom.

I wasn’t as engaged by this book as I have been with other Ken Follettt books but it was still a good story.

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!

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