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Reading Club reviews The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Photo 12-06-2017, 18 55 42

4.5 Stars 

A truly entertaining magical piece of fantasy.

All of our readers enjoyed the beautiful descriptive writing of Erin. Some found the beginning a bit difficult to follow with the abrupt changes of time and scene, though others found the whole mystery of it all utterly engrossing.

Basically, there are two ancient magicians who set their two star pupils against each other to find out who is the best. The issues are that the pupils don’t know the rules, or how the winner is declared. The competition arena, is the Night Circus.

There is a great deal that is left to the reader’s imagination as not everything is completely explained, which only adds to the enigmas and magic entwined in everything. This is not an ordinary novel. We first get a full view of the almost playfulness of the magic and later the darker aspects of it are explored. How everyone involved in the circus whether directly or not is caught up in it and pays a price as well as benefits from it.

Walking through the circus is so beautifully written that it feels as if you are there, smelling the caramel popcorn and watching the white flames dancing. The joy of the circus permeates the pages, people who visit the circus leave it ever changed.

The love story between Marco and Celia is restrained, elegant and ultimately otherworldly in its strength and beauty. They ‘write love letters’ to each other through the different tents in the circus. The demonstrations of their affection to each other are so beautiful; so dazzling as to wish that everyone could find such love.

The competition though integral to the story becomes the hardest part to reconcile as the pages flip by and the costs mount up for the magic being used, the balancing that must be maintained. Some of these costs are very heavy, burdensome and even fatal. The darker side of the competition is shown in all it’s sinister aspects and we are left waiting for the ‘other shoe to drop’ so to speak.

To show that this book is not for everyone, half of our readers adored this book and would absolutely recommend it as a must read, and the other half were not at all convinced, conceding only that the descriptive writing was excellent but the plot felt thin.

 

Reading Club reviews CHILD 44 by Tom Rob Smith

 Total stars: 4.66Photo 08-05-2017, 17 51 10

We all agreed that it was a very intense book and for those of us who weren’t fully aware of what it was like to live in Stalinist Russia during that time our eyes were surely opened!

This book takes you through the transformation of Leo Demidov from a complete ‘company man’ of the Russian State to a real person listening to his own sense of right and wrong.  We meet him as a no nonsense officer of the MGB willing and able to follow through on his orders and completely committed to succeeding. We also get glimpses of his insecurity because no one is safe under the scrutiny of the State. He is very aware of this and the long running jealousy of Vasily is a constant reminder of how much someone hates him and desperately wishes and works towards his downfall. From the beginning the life of Leo is shown for the stark reality it is. There is no happy family man here, or even a happy career man, it is purely survival in a very structured and dangerous place.

The relationship between Leo and his wife Raisa is another that is deep, raw and completely honest. Their relationship ebbs and flows according to the State plan, but the book takes a serious turn when Leo is faced with the decision of denouncing his wife. Seeing into their marriage is like facing a needed surgery, the inevitable pain is necessary to start the way to healing. Raisa is the stronger character in my view, never losing her sense of humanity but knowing how to hide herself in order to survive.

Leo’s decision starts a chain of events that leads to him discovering that murders are occurring the breadth of Russia, and since there is no crime in Russia he is the only one trying to convince anyone of the scary reality that a serial child killer/s is on the loose.  His commitment to this brings further scrutiny on him and he feels the full force of the authorities and experiences a complete reversal of circumstances. Where he was the one arresting people and transporting them to the most notorious prison Lubyanka, he is now the one in the prisoners seat.

There are twists and turns in this book that will knock the breath out of you. A seriously brilliant book.

On a personal note I found this book hit too close to home in regards to my own upbringing in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Where Leo is hitting his head against a stone wall in trying to convince people of the danger they are ignoring, it reminded me very strongly of how difficult it is to convince or motivate the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Congregation Elders that the right thing to do when an accusation of child abuse comes to them is to immediately call the authorities. They instead stick to their own procedures in the face of irrefutable evidence and demonstrated experience that their procedures are dead wrong and need to be changed, they still refuse to listen and insist that their way of doing things is right and everyone else must be wrong.  They desperately work to keep their image clean just like the Russian Government insists that the State is always right. Thankfully there is an army of people worldwide working incredibly hard to expose there hurtful practices and in so doing protect the public from being sucked into this so called religion.

 

 

Bream Reading Club reviews The Good Father by Noah Hawley

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Bream Reading club met last night the 3rd April to discuss Noah Hawley’s work The Good Father.

(Spoilers ahead)

We found the book gripping but for the heavy historical accounts on other political assassinations – though it was agreed that the Father (Dr Allen) needed those accounts in his attempts to understand his son, no real connections were ever made to his son and his actions. Perhaps that was left to the reader but it left us wondering how it added to our own understanding of Dr Allen and his son’s relationship.

All the way through the book Noah manages to keep us hoping that Daniel was somehow in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the final blow is hard to take. The three men on the train kept us hoping that there was some kind of conspiracy, and to be honest global conspiracies have been born on far less.

The brutally honest look at Daniel’s life is haunting and painful in differing degrees. Here is a man that believes he should have died on an airplane when he was eight. It appeared to us that he was a child that desperately needed his parents and they were not there for him, something that damaged him to some extent. He shows extreme apathy and detachment, this is aptly demonstrated by him rolling of a girl during sex and just walking away. He deliberately chooses to leave university and go driving around the States on his own with no apparent plan for returning to normal life.

Obviously a parent cannot be responsible for everything that their grown child does in this life, but there are also realities that must be acknowledged, would he have behaved differently if his parents had not divorced and he still had the full support and foundation of a stable family? We think his detachment was born on that airplane and the line having being severed there was no way of reattaching it.

Dr Allen thinking that many other children who lived that kind of life of travelling to and fro between divorced parents, didn’t go on to kill anyone, just sounds like an excuse. A great deal of the book is Dr Allen desperately trying to understand what happened to his son, and to an extent ever more desperately trying to find out if he is responsible.

In his quest to either vindicate his son or himself, he neglects his younger sons and so threatens to repeat history. He had an image of Daniel that wasn’t true, and Daniel had an image of his father that wasn’t true either. They were two shadows trying to understand each other and failing.

The Father with his touch of arrogance was slightly better than the ex-wife, Daniel’s mother who was irresponsible and in turns blamed herself or blamed Daniel for everything that had happened. We placed a great deal of blame at her door as her selfishness was so glaringly apparent.

The way the book concludes is touching and gave us closure.  The woman Bonnie is shown to be far more open and loving to Daniel than his own parents were, and though we will never truly know the full story of Daniel’s motivations because of ‘those missing pages in the journal’ we do know that he was loved by others even if his own parents had semi-abandoned him.

Overall rating out of 5 = 4.33

Our next meet in May will be the 8th as the first Monday of the month is a bank holiday

 

Reading Club

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I need help!! We are starting up our reading club on the 6 March and will meet every first Monday of the month thereafter – BUT, what will we read?

This is where I need help, please comment of which book you think we should start off with. This is a random list of 7 books available on the reading group sets.

1.       PALACE COUNCIL – Carter, Stephen L

2.       THE GOOD FATHER – Hawley, Noah

3.       LOTTERY – Wood, Patricia

4.       THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON – Morton, Kate

5.       THE WHALEBOAT HOUSE – Mills, Mark

6.       IF THE DEAD RISE NOT – Kerr, Philip

7.       THE SILENT AND THE DAMNED – Wilson, Robert

 

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