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Everything posted by Ruth

  1. Ruth - 2015

    No Time for Goodbye, by Linwood Barclay May 1983 – 14 year old Cynthia Bigge wakes up the morning after an almighty row with her father, and discovers that her entire family – her mother, father and brother have disappeared. The mystery is never solved, and for 25 years, Cynthia has to live with not knowing what happened to them. Are they dead? Alive? Did they just choose to leave her, or did some other fate befall them? 2008 – Cynthia appears in one of those hokey true-crime television shows, which revisits the mystery of her family’s disappearance, and soon afterwards, strange things start happening – a phone call from someone saying that they know where her family are; her father’s old hat suddenly appearing in their house, and other events. Is someone playing cruel games with Cynthia, or is they mystery finally about to be solved? Apart from the very brief prologue describing the night of the disappearance from Cynthia’s point of view, the rest of the story is narrated by her husband, a high school English teacher named Terry. Cynthia and Terry have a more-or-less happy marriage, and an eight year old daughter named Grace, but the mystery of what happened to her parents and brother has haunted Cynthia for years, to the extent that when odd events occur, Terry questions Cynthia’s sanity. If you are a fan of thrillers/whodunnits, then I’d recommend this story. Sometimes the writing is a bit cliched, and I did figure out the ending before the big reveal, but there was plenty here that kept me entertained. The writing flowed well, and I read huge chunks at a time, because I was eager to find out what happened (and if my guesses were correct). The plot sometimes veered close to being ludicrous, but I just went with it, and enjoyed it anyway. As with most books in this genre, I would not read it again, because it’s more about the destination rather than the journey, so once you know who ‘dunnit’ there’s not much point in re-reading. Terry was a decent enough narrator, although not a particularly interesting character (to me anyway), but this book is definitely more plot driven than character driven, so the fact that he did not make a huge impression on me did not really matter. All in all, it’s not brilliant, but it’s an enjoyable diversion and I’d read more by Linwood Barclay.
  2. Ruth - 2015

    Thanks everyone. I hope 2015 is a great year for reading, for all of us. I enjoy looking through everyone's logs, and usually end up adding more than a few titles to my wishlist
  3. It's difficult, because the temptation is to choose a book that you personally have loved. I think To Kill a Mockingbird is a terrific choice. I'm also tempted to say Emma, by Jane Austen, because I love it so much, but I know a lot of people who don't like Jane Austen. Non-fiction - probably either Dead Man Walking, by Sister Helen Prejean, or Schindler's Ark, by Thomas Keneally. But I wouldn't want people to think I was forcing my own views upon them.
  4. Ruth - 2015

    Last Man Standing, by Roger Moore As the subtitle (Tales from Tinseltown) suggests, this book by former James Bond and Simon Templar actor Sir Roger Moore, is a collection of stories and anecdotes from his life and career, as well as some stories that he was told himself, and others which he admits are probably apocryphal. It’s an enjoyable and easy read, but I definitely doubt the veracity of some of his tales (even those which he does not admit are probably untrue). For example, when talking about Frank Sinatra, he says that when Frank died, Frank’s wife Barbara and daughter Nancy were with him. However, Frank’s other daughter Tina, states quite clearly in her own book, how none of Frank’s children were with him at the time of his death, and how much that upset them. More enjoyable are the stories which Sir Roger was personally involved in, as the details of these are obviously much more likely to be correct. Obviously given the subject, there are loads of famous Hollywood stars, many of whom are no longer with us, mentioned throughout, and this makes for a gossipy – but never malicious – kind of book. Sir Roger does come across as a genuinely nice man, who doesn’t take himself too seriously, and enjoys high-jinks and practical jokes on set. This is not the book to read if you are looking for his autobiography (and nor does it claim to be), although he does talk about various stages in his career. I would recommend this book to fans of Sir Roger, or to anyone interested in Hollywood gossip, but I wouldn’t take all of it as completely accurate.
  5. Ruth - 2015

    Thanks, and hope you do too x
  6. Ruth - 2014

    I'm hoping to read at least 10 biographies/autobiographies, at least ten other non-fiction books, and a minimum of ten novels, so I'll be listing the books I read in each category here, as well as reviewing them, so I can look back and remember what I thought of them Biographies / autobiographies In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran, by John Taylor - 3/5 Clark Gable, by Warren G. Harris - 3.5/5 The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography, by Sidney Poitier - 5/5 The Moon's A Balloon, by David Niven - 4/5 The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson - 5/5 Rich: The Life of Richard Burton, by Melvyn Bragg - 5/5 A Fortunate Life, by Robert Vaughn - 4/5 My Father's Daughter, by Tina Sinatra (with Jeff Coplon) Other non-fiction Them: Adventures With Extremists, by Jon Ronson - 4/5 Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education, by Jane Robinson - 4.5/5 Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine - 4/5 Kiss My Asterisk, by Jenny Baranick - 5/5 Moranthology, by Caitlin Moran - 3.5/5 Howard's End is on the Landing, by Susan Hill - 4/5 How To Be A Woman, by Caitlin Moran - 2.25/5 Running Like a Girl, by Alexandra Heminsley - 5/5 Too Much Information, by Dave Gorman - 5/5 Hatchet Job, by Mark Kermode - 4.5/5 Difficult Men, by Brett Martin - 5/5 Novels The Cold Dish, by Craig Johnson - 4/5 Beyond the Burning Time, by Kathryn Lasky - 3.25/5 Capital, by John Lanchester - 4.5/5 The Witch's Cradle, by Gillian White - 4.5/5 The Shadow Year, by Hannah Richell - 3.5/5 The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult - 4/5 Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe - 2.5/5 The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, by David Nobbs - 3.75/5 Daphne, by Justine Picardie - 3.5/5 Perfect, by Rachel Joyce - 3.75/5 The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson - 3.5/5 Cuckoo, by Julia Crouch - 3.5/5 Kiss Me First, by Lottie Moggach - 5/5 The Never List, by Koethi Zan - 2.5/5 Emma, by Jane Austen - 5/5 The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas - 4.5/5 Lucia, Lucia, by Adriana Trigiani - 3.75/5 The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and other stories, by Ernest Hemingway - 2.5/5 Cakes and Ale, by W. Somerset Maugham - 5/5 Tender is the `Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald - 2.25/5
  7. Ruth - 2014

    My Father's Daughter, by Tina Sinatra (with Jeff Coplon) This book, written by Frank Sinatra’s youngest child, is a fascinating insight into the man behind the music. It’s also a book of two halves. In the first half, Tina describes life as a young child, with a loving but often absent father – Frank having left Tina’s mother Nancy for Ava Gardner, while Tina was a baby. Although clearly very close to her mother, Tina speaks well of Gardner, and even better of her father’s third wife, Mia Farrow, with whom she became good friends. In the second half of the book, things take a sombre turn, as Frank marries his fourth and final wife, Barbara Marx, who was formerly married to Marx brother Zeppo. The difficulties between Barbara and Frank’s children – Nancy, Frank Jr. and Tina herself – have been fairly well documented, but here, any gaps are filled in, and Tina lets rip at Barbara. (I have read Barbara Sinatra’s book, 'Lady Blue Eyes', which tells the story from the other side. I didn’t enjoy that book anywhere near as much as those, or take to the author, and given the stories which were flying about within the industry while Frank and Barbara were married, I tend to believe Tina’s side of the story, although obviously only those who were there know the full truth.) Tina describes how her mother and father remained close and loyal friends for the rest of Frank’s life, and how they often talked about getting back together. It is sad to read about the troubles within the family upon Frank’s fourth marriage, and occasionally Tina makes a few assumptions about Barbara’s motives or actions, but it certainly appears that Barbara intentionally made life difficult for the Sinatra children, and caused a rift between them and their father. Toward the end of his life, Frank Sinatra suffered from various illnesses, and was also diagnosed with dementia, and there is a real sense of tenderness in how Tina talks of her father. His death and funeral were beautifully described, by a daughter who clearly loved her dad very deeply. I would certainly recommend this book to any fans of Frank Sinatra – it’s an interesting and engaging read. It’s not the book to read if you want to find out more about his career; it’s definitely a very personal memoir concentrating on Frank’s private life, but all the more enjoyable for it.
  8. Ruth - 2014

    Thanks I think I had been spoiled by The Great Gatsby, and I expected to enjoy this one just as much.
  9. Ruth - 2014

    Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald The book (apparently semi-autobiographical) tells the story of Dick and Nicole Diver, a glamorous couple, who seem to have it all – wealth, beauty and the admiration of all who know them. The first part of the book is set near to Marseilles, when a young, emerging film star named Rosemary Hoyt, meets the Divers and falls under their influence, quickly convincing herself that she is in love with Dick. At the end of the first section of the book, a specific incident occurs, which has a huge impact on Nicole. The second section of the book then goes back to when Dick and Nicole first met, and the reader learns that all is not as it initially seemed; the circumstances of their falling in love throw an entirely different light on their relationship. The third section of the book deals with the disintegration of their marriage, and the how each of them deal with it. I was really looking forward to reading this book, because I loved The Great Gatsby, and thoroughly enjoyed Flappers and Philosophers (a collection of Fitzgerald’s short stories). However, I struggled somewhat with Tender is the Night, and at times it felt like a chore that I had to get to the end of. I think this is partly because none of the characters are very sympathetic, or even particularly likeable. It’s difficult not to compare Dick Diver with Jay Gatsby, but whereas with Gatsby, as we learned more about his past, it made me warm to him, with Dick, as the layers were peeled away and we learned more about the man underneath, it made me despise him. His behaviour in the second section of the book – the ‘flashback’ section – made him appear sleazy and willing to compromise his morals. That said, I still find Fitzgerald’s use of language to be beautiful and emotive; at times it is pure poetry, and this is what really kept me reading. The use of the flashback worked for me, although it temporarily put the brakes on the narrative. There is another version of the book where Fitzgerald swapped the first and second sections around, so that the story was told in chronological order. This version was apparently not well received, and I think I can see why. The way the book is written, we see Nicole and Dick as a couple to admire and perhaps envy, then the rug is pulled out from under us as we learn more about the origins of their relationship. This effect would be lost if the reader knew the truth from the beginning. My favourite part of the story was the third part of the book, where the balance of power in their marriage shifts, and only one of them benefits. I’m glad I read the book, for this final section, and because some of Fitzgerald’s descriptions of moments and feelings are so wonderfully written, but the characters did not move me at all, and my main feeling once I reached the end of it was one of relief.
  10. Julie 2014

    Julie, I'm just catching up on the forum. I'm glad you're back, and sorry for all the troubles you have been through. I truly hope things look up for you xx
  11. Ruth - 2014

    A Fortunate Life, by Robert Vaughn Robert Vaughn has had a long and successful acting career. As well as being The Man from U.N.C.L.E., he was also one of The Magnificent Seven, and in more recent times, was a main cast member on the BBC show Hustle. But in addition to such achievements, he has also starred in countless other films, and appeared on stage many times. In this book, he describes his life, from his childhood with a mother and step-father who were also actors, to his unconventional adolescence, to his ascension to genuine Hollywood star. However, this book also covers much more ground than just his acting career. With a keen interest in politics (he is a staunch Democrat), Vaughn also describes his friendship with Robert F. Kennedy, and his theories on the truth behind RFK’s assassination. There are fascinating tales of being trapped in Czechoslovakia at the time of the Soviet invasion, and being placed under house arrest while filming in South America. Amongst all of these stories are of course, anecdotes from Vaughn’s lengthy career, in which he talks about many of his friends, famous and otherwise, including Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen. Vaughn is clearly a highly intelligent and thoughtful man, and he has written an absorbing autobiography. I had only seen him in the aforementioned Hustle, and more recently on stage in a (breathtakingly wonderful) production of Twelve Angry Men, and was large unfamiliar with his earlier work, but the stories from that part of his career made for interesting reading. I would certainly recommend this book to fans of Robert Vaughn, but also to anyone who enjoys reading autobiographies.
  12. Ruth - 2014

    I think he did write some short stories (in fact, after reading this book, I had a browse of his other work and from what I can work out, he wrote a collection of short stories about the narrator of Cakes and Ale. I definitely want to read more by him too )
  13. Julie 2014

    Hi Julie, I've just caught up on your thread, and you certainly have been through the mill. Hope things are improving now, and I hope to see you back on here soon x
  14. Ruth - 2014

    Cakes and Ale, by W. Somerset Maugham William Ashenden is an author of reasonable success, who is contacted by an old friend – fellow author and literary darling Alroy Kear, who in turn has been asked to write a biography of a recently deceased writer named Edward Driffield, by Driffield’s widow. Kear – and Driffield’s widow Amy – want William’s help, as he knew Driffield many years earlier. This request sparks William’s memory, and the majority of Cakes and Ale is written in flashback, as William – who also narrates the story recalls his friendship with Edward Driffield and his first wife Rosie. Here, he faces a dilemma, because Rosie is remembered with disdain and even disgust by most people, due to her promiscuity, and her unfaithfulness to her husband. However, William remembers her with affection, and is concerned over how much to tell Kear, and what exactly should appear in Kear’s biography. I have never read anything by W. Somerset Maugham before, and was not sure what to expect, but I was thoroughly charmed by this novel. It is narrated in a meandering fashion – laced with cynicism, but also very wry and humorous in parts. William, who was clearly something of a wannabe snob in his earlier years, has clearly mellowed with age, and is able to think of Rosie without disapproval; seemingly the only person who is willing or able to do so. The story is written in a conversational manner, and William’s observations about small town life, and the people who inhabited his childhood village were sharp and very ‘on the ball’ (I definitely felt like I knew some of these people!) It sounds contradictory, but while quite a lot happens, it feels also like not much happens – perhaps because the main bulk of the story is written as a reminiscence, rather than events which are taking place in the present time. It’s a light and easy read, and one that is perfect to curl up on the sofa with on a rainy day. I would definitely recommend this book, and will be seeking out more work by Maugham as a result of reading it.
  15. Ruth - 2014

    Thank you Yeah, I do think it's definitely aimed at people who have seen at least some of the shows (I haven't seen Deadwood, but I've watched the others - Mad Men and The Wire are two of my all-time favourite shows). But the behind-the-scenes info was fascinating too.
  16. Ruth - 2014

    Difficult Men, by Brett Martin …Or to give the book its full title: Difficult Men: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution. In this fascinating book, Brett Martin discusses what he calls the Third Golden Age of Television – a revolution in television broadcasting, that gave the viewers a new type of protagonist; a man (it was almost always men) who was morally compromised, not always likeable, sometimes acting very much on the wrong side of the law. In short, a difficult man, the most obvious examples of which include Tony Soprano of The Sopranos, Jimmy McNulty (and many other characters) of The Wire, Don Draper of Mad Men, and Al Swearengen of Deadwood. And the audience are supposed to care for and root for these characters – not always an easy sell. Martin demonstrates how, in a reversal of typical roles (such as always good cops, and always evil villains), more complicated protagonists (such as those mentioned above) started emerging in the 1990s. (Suggestions of such anti-heroes were seen in shows such as NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues.) HBO were largely responsible for the start of the Third Golden Age, with The Sopranos being the groundbreaking show that opened the door for those that came after it. Basic network cable followed suit with shows such as The Shield, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The book is fascinating, and hard to put down. It is packed with details of how the shows were put together, what life was like in the writers’ room, and how various problems were overcome. Many of the main players in the story were interviewed for the book, which provided insight into their world. I couldn’t say whether the title of the book is intended to have two meanings, but the term Difficult Men certainly could apply equally to the men (again, it was always men) who created some of these shows. While they had undoubted talent and vision, it becomes clear that some of them were very difficult to work for or with, due to reasons such as temper, addiction, or various eccentricities. It makes for interesting reading. One word of warning: The books contains several spoilers, of varying size, for The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, The Shield, Breaking Bad and Mad Men, so if you are not up to date with any of these shows and want to read the book, it might be best to wait until after you have seen all the episodes. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and definitely recommend it.
  17. Ruth - 2014

    ​The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and other stories, by Ernest Hemingway This book is a collection of short stories, the first (and best) being The Snows of Kilimanjaro. In this sad, wistful tale, a man lies at the base of Kilimanjaro, having developed gangrene in his leg, and being unable to get proper treatment for it. He is accompanied by his wife, but as he lies dying and we witness his conversations with his wife and his own private thoughts, it becomes clear that his life is full of regret, missed opportunities and unfulfilled dreams. This story hooked me in, and gave me hope for the rest of the book. Unfortunately, I didn't really enjoy the rest of stories - to the extent that I actually put the book down and read some others before continuing. It's only that I feel unable to leave a book finished once it's started that I picked it up again. Many of the stories are about Hemingway's semi-autobiographical character Nick Adams, who I found myself unable to warm to. It's true that some of the descriptive passages are beautiful, and the dialogue is believable, but the over-riding themes of rugged, macho men doing rugged manly things, and the women who often seem little more than an annoyance to said men, did not appeal to me. However, apart from the story which lends its title to the book, I did enjoy the story about a young man returning home from war and finding himself unable (and unwilling) to forge a connection with anyone, including family, friends and girlfriends. On the whole however, while I wouldn't deny Hemingway's talent to use words wonderfully at times, his stories were just not a good fit for me.
  18. Ruth - 2014

    Lucia, Lucia, by Adriana Trigiani In 1950, Lucia Sartori is the most beautiful girl in Greenwich Village, New York. She is a talented dressmaker at an exclusive store, but is expected to give up her job to get married and become a housewife. However, Lucia has other ideas, and is determined to be as independent as possible. That is until handsome and charismatic John Talbot comes into the store and sweeps her off her feet. Lucia falls hard and falls fast, but she and John have several obstacles to overcome, not least her very traditional family. I always enjoy Adriana Trigiani’s books, and this one was no exception. The story is bookended by two short chapters set in the modern day, when an older Lucia tells her story to her young neighbour. Personally I thought the book would have been better without this framing device, as the ending (of the whole book, rather than the ending of the story of events in the 1950s) seemed a bit contrived, but I really enjoyed the main body of the story. The character of Lucia was developed well, as were those of her family and friends, especially her boss Delmarr, who I particularly liked. It was interesting to read about Lucia’s life in a large Italian immigrant family, and to understand her conflict between what was expected of her, and what she wanted to do with her life. There were a number of twists and turns which I did not expect, and Lucia’s story did not end the way that I expected it to, but was better because of it. However, without wanting to reveal any spoilers, Lucia did make a decision towards the end of the book, which seemed to undermine decisions and plans which she had made earlier, which was something of a shame, although it was probably understandable under the circumstances. It is a cosy and undemanding tale, and perfect for curling up with on the sofa. If you are a fan of Adriana Trigiani or such books, you won’t be disappointed.
  19. Devi's Mount TBR List 2014

    Just to be awkward, I'll admit that I loved it (It's one of my favourite books, but I do enjoy dystopian fiction, so maybe I was predisposed to enjoy it.)
  20. Anna's Books for 2014

    This has been on my tbr shelf for AGES. I do like dystopian fiction, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Atwood, is one of my favourite books, so I am determined to read this soon. Thanks for the review
  21. Athena's Reading List 2014

    Great review of Attachments, thanks I'm adding this to my wish list.
  22. Would You Rather..? Tag

    1. Read only trilogies or stand alones? If I had to pick one or the other, it would be stand alones. 2. Read only female or male authors? Gosh, I don't know. I read more by female authors, but that isn't really a conscious choice. Based on that however, I'll go for female authors. 3. Shop at a book shop or online? At a bookshop. I enjoy browsing, picking up books, reading the blurb, etc., etc. 4. All books become movies or tv shows? TV shows. They generally allow for more time to develop the story and characters. 5. Read 5 pages per day or 5 books per week? 5 books per week. 6. Be a professional reviewer or author? Definitely author. 7. Only read your top 20 favorite books over and over or always read new ones that you haven't read before? I'll say new ones. I have a few books which I reread from time to time, but I just love discovering new books and authors. 8. Be a librarian or book seller? A librarian. I think. I'd love either job to be honest! 9. Only read your favorite genre, or every genre except your favourite? Favourite genre. Although I don't really have one, so that might be tricky. 10. Only read physical books or eBooks? Definitely physical books. It's just a personal thing, but although I've tried, I just can't get along with ebooks.
  23. Both of my parents read a lot, and one of my brothers is also a big reader. My husband reads, but unlike me, he can go a month or so without reading, whereas I always have a book on the go.
  24. It seems unfair on the other members of the group to go with absolutely no intention of reading the book, just to prove some point to your flatmate. You don't know that the book they choose will be 'drivel' unless you actually read it. I'd say you'd do everyone a favour if you didn't go.
  25. The last film you saw - 2014

    Oh yes I love that film.