My 400th Blog Post – A What You’ve Been Reading Special

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Today reviewsrevues hits the big 400 (thank you wordpress for letting me know, I wasn’t keeping count!).  Since my 300th celebration I’ve moved house and changed jobs but thankfully I’ve still been able to find the time for the reading and reviewing.  I am probably increasingly reading more new books, certainly far more than I was when I started the site.  Thank you to the publishers that have supported me and please keep those book parcels coming! I like to celebrate these big milestones by having a look at what you have been reading.  I did my last retrospective at the end of 2016  and then set the dials back to zero. So, what has been attracting the most attention in the last six months? 400 posts so top 3’s in 4 sections –  Books- Recent publications ;  Books-Back catalogue; CDs and TV. Here goes … (clink on the titles for the full reviews)

Books- Recent Publications

3. Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult (2016)

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Posted in my 100 Essential Books thread at the end of January, I am delighted to see people want to read about this book as it is still going to be one of the strong challengers for my Book Of The Year.  I’ve been recommending it like mad at the libraries where I work and the feedback from those who have followed my advice has all been positive, both from Jodi Picoult fans and those, like me, who have chosen to start their Picoult experience with this book.  Just yesterday a lady told me it would be a book she would “remember for a long, long time”.  Great praise.

2. When We Rise – Cleve Jones (2017)

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American gay activist’s account of life in San Francisco in the 1970’s/80’s. I posted this review in March.  I was told that Cleve appeared on “Newsnight” this week and had been surprised that his book was attracting a good general readership.  The six part TV series made of this book written by Dustin Lance Black has not yet appeared in the UK.  (I took out a Netflix subscription thinking it was on there but it isn’t.  There are rumours that Channel 4 have bought it).  When that is shown sales of this book will continue to soar.

1.A Life Discarded – Alexander Masters (2016)

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Posted in April.  Masters’ non-fiction work is about a discovery of a large number of diaries found dumped in a skip.  Part biography, part detective work, I am going to continue to say nothing about the subject of this book and urge you to read it- a lot of you seem to want to know about it, making it the most read review in the recent publications category.

Books – The Back Catalogue (Older publication dates)

3. The Noel Coward Diaries – Edited by Graham Payn & Sheridan Morley (1982)

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I posted this back in May 2015 and yet it is really only this year that it has been attracting this much attention, showing that perhaps Sir Noel is coming back into vogue.  This is one of my 100 Essential Reads and if you fancy spending close to thirty years in the company of this fascinating man this is a must-read.

2. Motown: The History – Sharon Davis (1988)

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I’d read Sharon Davis’ Motown based column in “Blues and Soul” magazine for years and this book is a thorough study of the label from a British point of view.  I posted this back in November 2015 and once again it has been a slow burner which has taken off this year.  I have Davis’ biography of disco pioneer Sylvester on my To Be Read list.  Seeing the popularity of this makes me think I should get that read.

1.SS-GB- Len Deighton (1978)

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Posted in February this year there has been significantly more interest in my review of this, the book, than the BBC 1 Sunday night adaptation.  To be honest, I wasn’t totally convinced by either.  I think the book has dated rather and doesn’t live up to the premise of an alternative history of  London just after the Nazis won the war,  but this is my most read review in the older books category.

CDs

3. Light Years- Kylie Minogue  (2000)

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Posted in May this is Kylie’s finest hour, a culmination of the pop princess, the disco queen and consummate entertainer.  Rated number 34 in my Essential CD list.

2. Very Best Of Kathy Kirby (1997)

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Posted in October 2016 is number 79 in my Essential CDs. I claimed in my review that this was one of my guilty pleasures, but now so many of you have read the review I don’t need to feel guilty about one of the great under-rated artists in 60’s pop.

1.Let’s Groove – The Best Of – Earth Wind & Fire (1996)

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Since it was posted in October 2015 this has consistently been the most read CD review and things have been no different this year.  It just shows how loved this group was around the world.  Number 30 in my 100 Essential CD list.

TV

3. Roots – BBC4 (2017)

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The high standard was maintained throughout this re-make of the classic TV series.  It feels valid to question why it was re-made but if it brought home the issues raised to a new generation then it was very important that it was.  It lacked the impact of the original which had everybody talking about it when it was first shown but it had good performances, high production values and was equally compulsive viewing. I posted this review in February.

2. Jamestown – Sky 1 (2017)

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I wasn’t sure what to make of the first episode of this (too) glossy historical drama “from the makers of Downton Abbey” when it appeared on Sky 1 in May.  The tale of “maids to make wives” in Seventeenth century Virginia wasn’t without promise.  Here’s a post-review confession, I only ever watched the first episode.  The rest were series-linked in my planner but when it came down to it I didn’t feel the need to watch any more.

1.The Level – ITV1 (2016)

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I posted this review in October after the first episode.  By the third episode this was my most read review ever, something which has continued ever since.  It actually kept me watching the series.  This Brighton-based series had finished before the start of 2017 and yet this year it is over 500 reads ahead of its nearest rival.  In 2016 it finished 1300 away from the number 2 read.  This seems to be the review that is bringing new visitors onto reviewsrevues.com.  Long may it last.

Just writing about these 12 most read out of the 400 reviews has got me recognising that you readers out there like a bit of variety.  There’s quite a range in these twelve reviews alone. It’s part of the fun that keeps me guessing as I’m never sure when I’m posting what will attract the biggest audiences and the continuing readership of “The Level” from countries around the globe has me a little bewildered as the series did not seem to make that much of an impression when it was on TV- but it’s clearly the reviewsrevues readers’ favourite.  Right, it’s heads down now and onwards to the 500.

Many thanks to all of you who take the time to read my ramblings and those of you who feel motivated enough to comment on what you read.  That’s a huge thank-you to my Big 5 commenters who have stimulated thought and conversation on here – that’s Kay Carter, Monika, Fiction Fan, Geoffrey Valentine and Cleopatra Loves Books.  Keep on reading……………..

 

 

 

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Top 10 Books Of The Year -Part 2 (The Top 5)

Without any further ado here are the five books that did it for me in 2015.  To find the full reviews please click on the titles

5. Work Like Any Other – Virginia Reeves (Scribner 2016) (Read and reviewed in September)

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This is the one that should have made the progression from the Booker longlist to the shortlist.  An astonishing debut.  It’s 1920s Alabama and a plan to bring electricity to Roscoe Martin’s farm goes badly wrong.  It’s the second tale of rural survival on my list but is imbued throughout with hope -throughout the darkest moments there’s hope and Reeves conveys this beautifully.

4. His Bloody Project – Graeme  Macrae Burnet  (Saraband 2015) (Read and reviewed in August)

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My pick of the Booker Prize shortlist.  Published by a tiny Scottish independent this was one that would have slipped through my net had it not had the Booker nod.  A historical novel that reads like true crime is an interesting concept but what makes this special is the real feel of the crofting community of the Scottish highlands in 1869 through  a prison journal, witness statements, official documents and court transcripts. Sold well after its Booker recognition but a win would have turned this into one of the year’s big books.  It is certainly a big book in my opinion.

3.Black Narcissus – Rumer Godden (Virago 1939) (Read in June and reviewed in August)

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Love the film but have never actually got round to reading the book.  Neurotic nuns up a mountain – what’s not to love?  I wasn’t sure if Godden would have been able to convey the technicolour lushness of the film but she certainly does.  Hopefully in 2017 I’ll be able to seek out more by her.

2. Life After Life – Kate Atkinson  (Doubleday 2013) (Read in April and reviewed in May)

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2013 Costa Novel award winner. I am the last one around to read this?  Structurally superb, risking accusations of style over substance but producing a novel which is both technically surprising and first class. “Practice makes perfect” is a theme of the novel and Atkinson here gets close to perfection.

Time for the long silence before the winner is announced (oh, can’t do long silences on a blog so I’ll get straight on with it .The reviewsrevues Book Of The Year 2016 is……….

1.  Joe Speedboat – Tommy Wieringa (Scribe 2016) (Read and reviewed in May)

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In any other year there could have been as many as three Wieringa novels in my Top 10 as the other two I have read are hovering outside the Top 10 and are both very good.  This is also how I felt last year with his “These Are The Names” published by Scribe and which saw them embarking on a programme to of bringing out his earlier Dutch novels translated by Sam Garrett. A 2009 debut this was apparently the biggest ever selling Dutch debut in his homeland and it deserves a huge audience here.  A coming-of-age novel about Frankie, who has survived a horrific accident and becomes swept up by the antics of newcomer Joe Speedboat.  Like all the best books it provokes a myriad of emotions- it is touching, unpredictable, outrageous and laugh out loud funny.  Scribe have been a great support to this blogger this year, but there’s certainly no favouritism.  This book has reached my summit on merit.

This is the second year I have gone for a book in translation for my top pick.  Last year’s Top 5 can be found here.  I have probably read more translated novels this year but that is because of authors such as Tommy Wieringa.  If there is a pattern, and I wouldn’t have said there was, but looking at my ten titles I can see that there may very well be one, it is to make my top 10, authors, set your novels in the past.  I wouldn’t have said I was a great historical novel fan but this list suggests otherwise… We’ll see what 2017 conjures up.  Bring it on!

As I read a lot more books this year than I normally do there are a number of titles that I feel bad about missing out on my Top 10 – so here are a few special mentions for recent publications.  The Wicked Boy – Kate Summerscale, Hot Milk-Deborah Levy, The Double Life Of Kit Kavanagh- Marina Fiorato, Eileen -Otessa Moshfegh, Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeliene Thien,  Rembrandt’s Mirror- Kim Devereux, Tall Oaks – Chris Whitaker ( incidentally a nominee for the newbooks Book Noir book of the year) , Angel Of Highgate – Vaughn Entwistle, Himself- Jess Kidd (the last four authors I have had the great pleasure of interviewing this year- always one of my personal highspots of reviewsrevues.com)

In my next post I’ll honour the re-read that gave me the most pleasure this year.

See my Top 10 Books Part 1 – numbers 10-6 here

My 300th Blog Post!- What You Have Been Reading

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With a roar of triumph not too unlike Gerard Butler’s in the 2007 movie I have reached my 300th post.  As I seem to spend a lot of my time telling you what I am reading I thought I’d turn the tables somewhat and take a look of what you have been reading since the start of the year when I did my last little retrospective for my 200th post.  Back then “Mary Portas Secret Shopper” was at the top of the pile but there has been quite a bit of change since then- although there is one in that February Top 5 which has remained very popular ever since, but more of that later.  Looking back the site has broadened a bit with more reviews of CDs and TV programmes  and the author interviews alongside the books so I thought this time I’d section things off and with the Paralympics still going strong have my own bronze, silver and gold medals in each of the categories.  Thank you all very much for continuing to read reviewsrevues.com, for the followers new and old and for all your comments which are always much appreciated.  Now before I get too emotional to carry on, here is what you have been reading, all nicely linked so you can follow up any you might have missed.

Author Interviews

Bronze- Vaughn Entwistle– .Posted in May 2016, Vaughn tracked me down on this site after I posted my review of his “The Angel Of Highgate” I was delighted that he was keen to take part in my Author Strikes Back thread.

Silver – Benita Jayne – Posted in July 2016,  Benita found me on a School Reunion Site and after a touch of reminiscing on school days mentioned she had written a book and would be up for an interview.  A lot of people have read Benita’s interview and it was great to welcome her to reviewsrevues.com

Gold- Chris Whitaker – Posted in April 2016, Chris was such a good sport I got to interview him twice- once for this site and once for my good friends over at Nudge  where his book was chosen as Book Noir featured book of the month.  The Nudge interview can be found here.  Chris was really prepared to get us to see the real him in these interviews!

Books   (And proof that the author interviews do drive readers to check out the book reviews – with only Vaughn just missing out on “doing the double”.

Bronze- Day Of Judgement – Salvatore Satta – Posted in May 2016.  This was not my favourite of the Apollo Classic series I read but it is the one that became the most popularly read review.  It seems a lot of you are interested in this tale of Sardinia in the early twentieth century.

Silver – The Sacred Crystal Pyramid – Benita Jayne – Posted in June 2016.  Just in case Benita needs a little prompting to complete her second novel in her Angel Messenger series here is proof that a lot of people wanted to read  about her novel intended for older children.  Benita has been getting quite a bit of attention in the press (double page spread in “Soul And Spirit” magazine)  and has had a busy summer of promotion.

Gold – Tall Oaks – Chris Whitaker – Posted in March 2016.  It was great to see Chris’ deserved inclusion in the alternative Not The Booker Longlist published by The Guardian.  As well as this he also has the glory of having the most read book review on reviewsrevues.com!

CDs – Unlike the other sections the CD reviews tend to be slow burners with two of the most read actually being posted last year.

Bronze- Greatest Hits – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons – Posted in February 2016. 82 year old Frankie had recently announced a Four Seasons UK tour in April 2017

Silver – You Change – Lindsey Webster– Posted in November 2015 as one of my Music Now reviews (which seem to have taken a back seat of late – sorry about that).  Great voice and since this review has topped the Billboard Jazz charts but there are greater commercial things to come I would imagine especially as this review gets a lot more interest here than a lot of very established artists.

Gold – Let’s Groove – The Best Of – Earth Wind & Fire – Posted in October 2015.  The winner in this category by a clear mile and one that was sitting pretty at number 2 in my Top 5 most read reviews 100 posts ago.  I thought then that was because of the interest in this group following the sad death of Maurice White in February this year  but the interest in this group and this review has sustained throughout the year.  There’s a lot of people yearning for a real-life Boogie Wonderland!

TV Reviews

Bronze- Giles Coren: My Failed Novel – Posted in March 2016 A one-off documentary on Sky Arts which proved that this writing game is not always easy.  Giles was lamenting his sales of his novel “Winkler” but the interest here might suggest that it’s worth re-issuing!  Part of Sky’s Failure season this was a joy.  Giles has managed to overcome failure by hosting a week of ITV summer quiz show “500 Questions”!

Silver – Make! Craft Britain – Posted in June 2016. Another one-off documentary, this time on BBC4- a lovely relaxing programme which should be made into a series.  It has attracted a lot of interest here and for those of you wondering, yes I did finish making my Clanger and I was pleased with the result even if it looks like he has had open heart surgery.

Gold – Scott and Bailey – Posted in 2016.  Now cancelled first-class ITV cop show is already being missed judging by the number searching and finding the review of Series 5.  Not only is this the most read TV review it has managed to knock-out all competition as the most read review on reviewsrevues.com this year.

 

And where do these readers come from?  The Top 5 countries

  1. UK (no surprise there)
  2. US
  3. France
  4. Brazil
  5. Australia

It really is a world wide web, isn’t it.  Thanks for all your support!

 

My 200th Blog Post – What You Have Been Reading

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This is my 200th blog post.  I didn’t think I’d be notching up those numbers when I began at the end of January 2015 -and it is thanks to all you lovely readers out there keeping me blogging 3-4 times a week.  At the start of the year I had a little look back at the most read blogs and said I was zeroing the clocks until my 200th post when we’d have another review retrospective.  These are the 5 most read blog posts since the start of the year with links just in case they passed you by when they originally appeared.  It’s an all-new top 5 from 2015- although I suspect that my all-time most read post “The Murders At White House Farm” by  Carol Ann Lee is currently just lurking outside the Top 5 until the paperback is published in April when I suspect the review will have a new lease of life…

I know it’s only been about six weeks since my  What You’ve Been Reading 2015  but I thought I was seeing the pattern, that it was reviews of the most recently published books which attracted the most attention – however, statistics are meant to confound and that has certainly been the case here.

5. My Top 10 Books of 2015  Part 1 (10-6) (Posted in December)

More of you wanted to know what was in the lower half of my Top 10 than my Top half.  Well, as a reminder it featured books by Terry Ronald, Sara Baume, Grace Jones, edited by Biddy Baxter and Carol Ann Lee

4. The 13th Apostle – Michel Benoit (Published in 2007.  Reviewed January 2016)

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My most read book review so far this year is this gripping French novel full of religious intrigue and based on ex Benedictine monk Benoit’s academic research. This gives it a sense of greater plausibility than many other books in the adventure novel genre.

3. National Libraries Day – Book Bingo Launch (Posted in February)

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Great to see my little fund-raising initiative attracting readers.  Bingo card update – I now have three squares covered – I got my third for reading Jonathan Dark Or The Evidence Of Ghosts on my Kindle – a book which when published could be one of the “dark horses” (see what I did there) of the year.

2. Let’s Groove -The Best Of – Earth Wind & Fire  (Released in 1996.  Reviewed in October 2015)

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My 30th ranked album on my 100 Essential CDs list has received a boost in its viewings since the sad death of EW&F’s founding member, song-writer and producer Maurice White at the beginning of February.  I hope my review of this album is a fitting tribute to this legendary artist.

1. Mary Portas Secret Shopper (Shown in January 2016.  Reviewed in January 2016)

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It’s been a close run thing but it is the Queen of Shops herself who has got to the top of the pile with her very likeable third series of her shop rescue show.  With TV reviews, CD’s, Book reviews and Book related posts in the top 5 it does look like reviewsrevues has become the revue of reviews I was hoping for when I began the blog site.

We’ll leave Mary Portas at the number 1 position until I review these statistics again- either at the end of 2016 or my 300th post (whichever comes first).

Thanks once again for your support and comments over the last 200 posts.

Top 10 Books Of The Year – 2015 – Part 1 (10-6)

Of the 67 books I read this year it’s time to select the Top 10.  (That total was a couple up from last year but quite a few less than the golden reading year of 2013).  Getting in the Top 10 is important as only those hallowed tomes are allowed to remain on the bookshelves.  In an annual  book cull which seems to mark for me the end of the old year those that did not make the cut are already bagged up ready to donate to the library and charity shops and the unsuccessful e-books have been permanently deleted off the Kindle.  It’s a tough world over at reviewsrevues – but it’s really only to stop me appearing on one of those hoarder documentaries or being discovered half-buried under collapsed piles of books.  (Anyway, on the very same day as I cleared space on the Kindle I got excited about those Delphi Complete Classics editions on Amazon which has the complete works of writers for under £1 – so don’t think I’m depriving myself!)  Without further ado here starts of the rundown of the ten best books I have read this year.  (I haven’t restricted my list to those published this year but anything I read this year.)  However, my reading habits  must have changed as there are an unprecedented 6 out of the 10 that made their appearance in 2015.  I have separated the eight books I re-read into their own list- otherwise the same books would win time after time.  My favourite re-read will be announced in two posts time.  7 out of the ten books are by women.  It’s been a great year for women writers at reviewsrevues.  All of the 10 have been reviewed on this site- click on the titles to link to the full review.

10. Becoming Nancy- Terry Ronald (Corgi 2011) (Read in July- Reviewed in September)

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Set in the late 70’s in East Dulwich this is a coming out story which is in turns sweet, romantic, coarse, gritty, tragic and funny.  What more could you ask for? Debut novel from ex-pop star.  Sent me glassy-eyed with nostalgia.

9. Spill Simmer Falter Wither – Sara Baume (Windmill 2015) (Read and reviewed in November)

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The debut novel of  2015?  It’s currently on shortlists for First Novel at The Costas and  has just scooped Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards.  Beautifully and powerfully written this is an extended love letter of one man to his dog.  Watch this book pick up many more fans over the coming months.

8. I’ll Never Write My Memoirs – Grace Jones (Simon & Schuster 2015) (Read and reviewed in October)

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Thank goodness you did, Grace….  This was the celebrity biography I had waited years to be written and I wasn’t disappointed.  As told to music journalist Paul Morley the weird wonderful world of Grace Jones comes shining through.

7. Dear Blue Peter – Edited by Biddy Baxter (Short Books 2008) (Read in June- Reviewed in December)

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Sheer unashamed entertainment and a genius way to celebrate Blue Peter’s 50th anniversary (back in 2008).  Let the viewers do the work with a collection of their letters over the years, all itching for their Blue Peter badges.  Reading this you can appreciate why this programme has been important to so many and why it has lasted so long.  Very funny and well balanced between praise and criticism this is a real slice of Britishness.

6. Murders At White House Farm – Carol Ann Lee (Pan Macmillan 2015) (Read and reviewed in June)

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The non-fiction book of the year as far as I am concerned this chilling and through account of events in 1985 at Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex which resulted in the murder of five members of the Bamber family and the trial and conviction of Jeremy Bamber.  Painstakingly researched.  I was delighted to interview author Carol Ann Lee.  I thought it might set me off on a true crime reading spree but that hasn’t happened yet but I’m still keeping the titles Carol Ann recommended on my To Be Read list.

Next post – The Top 5 – All novels, three published in 2015.

100 Essential Books – A Spool Of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler (Vintage 2015)

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This is my first introduction to American author Anne Tyler.  I knew her by reputation but have never read her before.  Her latest novel, her 20th  in a 51 year publishing career is selling so well it is likely to be many readers’ introduction to her work.  I picked this up as part of Richard & Judy’s Book Club promotion – Buy one and get another for £1.  This one leapt out at me, it is the one I wanted.  I had to spend some time choosing the additional £1 book – this seemed to be in a different class to the others, and yet, would still be a perfect Book Club choice.

Feedback about this book has been extremely positive and there was the suggestion that it had wide appeal, turning up on Book Prize short and long lists as well as being a popular favourite and word-of-mouth bestseller.  I cleared my mind of all the hype (“One of the finest novelists of modern times” – Bella Magazine. “How can it be so wonderful?”- Washington Post.  “Every sentence is perfect” – The Sun – the list goes on) and sat down and read…………and read……….and read………

I found it genuinely hard to put this book down and now have that feeling of loss got only when you have the finest literary experiences.  I wasn’t really expecting an American family saga to sweep me away, but it is up there amongst the best I’ve read this year, if not the best, and has all the characteristics for me to recommend it as one of my 100 Essential Reads.

This is the tale of four generations of the Whitshank family.  Unusually, it is structured so it tends to move back in time.  This gives Tyler the opportunity to use the family anecdote as a framework.  Every family has a few stories that are told over and over again, slightly reshaped by the telling and often moving through the generations.  The Whitshanks have two such stories, which they use as examples of holding out for what you want.  Moving the plot back in time picks up the moments when these stories originate, after we have become familiar with the present oft-told version.

The central characters Abby and Red Whitshank reside in a house that belonged to and was very special to Red’s father.  It remains central for their family of four children and their children.  Amongst Abby and Red’s offspring is the gloriously unreliable Denny, the son who disappears and turns up throughout his adult life and gives very little away.  The sense of frustration towards him is one of the things that binds this generation together.  The novel starts with him, in a typical act, phoning his parents to tell them he is gay and then hanging up –  a revelation which is never brought up again or seems to have any basis for truth.  The family also have to increasingly face up to the age-related failings of Abby and Red.

This branch of the family were so beautifully drawn that when there was a shift to the younger Abby and Red and his parents, Junior and Linnie Mae, I thought my enjoyment might diminish but it did not.  Within all the generations there’s the odd surprise which I didn’t see coming but which Tyler manages to seamlessly introduce into the plot – often with a sentence that just changes everything.  I can see why she is being called one of the most accomplished authors of our time.

Her books are generally set in the Baltimore area and seem to be all stand-alones meaning I have the opportunity to pick and choose what I want to read next.  (I’m usually such a stickler for reading authors work in chronological order, but as I’ve started with her 20th I feel confident I can go anywhere from here through the Tyler oeuvre.  Any suggestions anyone?

This was an excellent introduction and a perfect example of a highly readable, high quality work with bags of appeal.

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A Spool Of Blue Thread is printed in the UK in 2015 paperback by Vintage (Penguin Books)

Can’t Find What You Are Looking For…………?

searchThen help is at hand.  At the top of the site (underneath the beach huts) I have added three new pages.  There’s an Alphabetical Index of all the reviews on the site, an index of my star ratings and a countdown of my 100 Essential CDs which I am posting alphabetically.  I’m going to be linking these so you will be able to open the pages directly from the index, but as I think I’m going to have to do these individually it might take a little while for it all to be fully linked (and I’ve got to work out how to do it!!).  In the meantime if something takes your fancy and you want to read more then there is a Search box now on the right hand side of the page and/or you may find what you are looking for by clicking on the suggestions in the Tag Cloud a little lower down the page.

I hope these couple of improvements will make navigation around the site easier and will encourage you to spend  even more time on reviewsrevues!

The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones – Jack Wolf (2013)

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Are you still with me or has the title put you off?  It all sounds very lurid and might suggest a slasher-type horror story but British author Jack Wolf’s novel is a solid literary debut. It’s the mid 18th Century and Tristan Hart tries to stifle his sadistic desires by channelling them into experimentations in medical science. Along the way he lodges with Henry Fielding, author of “Tom Jones”, in a London on the threshold of developing into a modern, scientific city. Hart is unable to escape his more primitive beliefs from his rural upbringing and tales of legendary characters (the goblins mentioned in the title), magic and changelings dominate his thoughts. Is this madness or is there something behind all this?

There’s a good feel for the period and some involving and enigmatic characters and behind it all there is an effective examination of Britain at a time when the rational and irrational were at loggerheads, when traditional beliefs were being questioned to fit in with enlightenment. There are times when the plot does not move quite as fast as it could and the unanswered questions became a little frustrating for this reader. It’s not quite the triumph I was hoping for but Wolf’s ability to combine the historical novel with his obvious love for fairy tale is original and I will certainly be looking out for future novels.

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The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones was published in 2013 by Chatto & Windus

How things are going…… (Blogging 101 Introductory Assignment)

I wrote my first blog post just over 5 months ago and I had little idea really as to what I was doing.  For the next few weeks I am taking part in the Blogging 101 Course run by WordPress which will hopefully answer those little niggling questions as to how to do things I’m still finding problematical.   Hopefully, you will see the benefits on this site.

As a way of introduction to those who will come to this site via the Blogging course.  I thought I’d take stock of the last few months of blogging three or four times a week.  Looking back at my very first post, the introductory one at the top of this page I have been really pleased that I’m more or less doing what I said I would.

This is going to be my 75th post.  I have reviewed 73 books and 10 CDs.  I haven’t got round to reviewing any films yet, but that’s probably because my time for film viewing has dropped considerably because of all the reading I have been doing.  I have been accepted as a member of Netgalley and I am absolutely thrilled to have readers from all around the world.  By following me I hope to be bringing you more of the same over the coming months plus a few new ideas which I’m not going to give away just yet, but I think they are exciting developments.  I do always welcome comments on reviews etc. so don’t be shy.  Hopefully, I’ll get to learn to be more adept with the technical aspects, which generally look fine on the website but sometimes can take quite a while for me to get right.

The summer season is beginning to kick in on the Isle of Wight, after a slow start, and the warmer weather means that the cats are spending marginally less time on my lap. At the top of the page it is Tara helping me with reviewing tasks so I’ll give my other cat, Archie, Tara’s son, the chance.

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100 Essential Books – The Luminous Life Of Lilly Aphrodite – Beatrice Colin (2008)

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lillyaphrodite

I’ve just finished reading this and here it is – a serious contender for my Book of The Year. Set in Berlin and spanning from the start of the twentieth century to the build up of World War II this is a big achievement of a book. It is superbly written. The title character is vibrant and captivates the reader from the outset when she is a little girl in an orphanage. There are also great characterisations in the supporting cast, Lilly’s friend Henne, whose choices send her down a very different path once the orphanage is no longer there for them; Sister August, the nun Lilly is so desperate to please; Eva, the radical lesbian and her brother Stefan and Ilya, the Russian film director who sees Lilly’s potential.

This is very much Lilly’s story and I do not want to give too much away. It is also the tale of rising above the hardships of a country battered by the decisions of its leaders. It is also a depiction of the developing film industry. Each chaper begins with a film-related vignette, which gives a sense of what is happening in German cinema and Lilly’s role in that does not become clear until a good way into the novel. I found this a rich, rewarding read.

Berlin has authenticity and functions as a character in the book, one, which in the first half of the century is in continual change. It’s a vast metropolis to the impoverished orphan; a place to starve or survive during the Great War; a place of potential demanding to be conquered by its citizens between the wars but also harbouring a bitterness which becomes all too evident when Hitler begins his rise to power. This is a book that ticks all the boxes for me in terms of characterisation, plot, structure and achievement. Expect to see it feature in my Best Books I’ve Read This Year Countdown at the end of the year and this book has just been sitting on my shelves waiting to be read since publication. Shame on me! Beatrice Colin is a writer and journalist based in Glasgow. Since the publication of this book she has written “The Songwriter”, a Jazz age novel which is being added to my To Be Read list.                fivestars

The Luminous Life Of Lilly Aphrodite is published by John Murray