Monday, February 28, 2011

Book 13 of the 50 Book Challenge

My Enemy's Cradle  by Sara Young, 387 pages

Started February 24th, finished February 27th

This book was lent to me by my mum as she thought my interest in Europe during WWII would be piqued.  It tells the tale of a Polish half-Jew who has been sent to the Netherlands to live with her mother's Non-Jewish family.  I won't spoil the tale but the main character ends up in the Lebensborn programme.

I found the book to be a little 'Chick lit romantic' for my tastes.  The style didn't seem to suit the seriousness of the situation being written about.  However I soon realised I could either get over myself and get on with reading the story or continue to bitch to myself about it.

As a story it's good.  As a description of the inside of a Lebensborn hospital it seems very good.  It's obviously been well researched.  However I still can't get the subject matter, the story and the way it's told to gel for me.  It just doesn't ring true.

The author seemed to want to get across certain points in her book.  Mainly that not all Germans not even all the soldiers were National Socialist Party sympathisers and that not all foreigners were National Socialist Party haters.  Points I'm glad to see made.  I particularly liked the way the author used the term Wehrmacht.  One which is usually lazily ignored in preference for the incorrect term 'Nazi'.

The biggest downfall of this book was for me the 'romantic' way it was written.  The main character may have been a romantic wuss but it was taken too far.  There is a horrific occurence in the book which seems to have very little effect on her.  Something I just couldn't believe.  It was very wrong for the author to make so light of it to me.  The romantic outcome of the book just didn't wash either.  

3.5 out of 5 pawprints

I would like to see interviews with both German and foreign women who went into the programme.  I wonder if there is anything published from the Channel Islands?  When I've had time to let this book settle in my mind I think I'll try and look up some factual memoirs.

I'd love to hear the opinions of others who have read this book.  

Total so far, Books - 13, Pages - 3,559

Next - Cabal by Michael Dibdin

Friday, February 25, 2011

Book 12 of the 50 Book Challenge & Books You Should Read, the Podcast

The Sentinel  by Jeffrey Konvitz, 248 pages

Started February 21st, finished February 24th.

This was one of those spooky coincidence recommendations.  It came up in a conversation with my mum and withing a week had been mentioned on the Books You Should Read podcast.  Such a coincidence involving horror fiction could not be ignored.  I managed to find a paperback about as old as myself from Amazon.  Though old luckily it's in great shape.  I don't have to hold the spine together as I read.

I was wary of this book as I'd been told it was spooky as Hell.  It's written in a very simple style.  It gives the information necessary but without many flourishes.  The characters were not at all original.  I've seen them all before many a time.  This wasn't a problem though once I got into the tale.  As I got deeper into the book I noticed the writing style less.  The book had me gripped so no complaints after all.

It is very spooky and unsettling.  It's a quick reader.  At the weekend you'd be able to rattle through it in a day.  The finale I expected just didn't come about at all which was a good thing for me.  I enjoyed the book and I'm hoping I can get hold of a copy of Michael Winner's film version.  

3.5 out of 5 pawprints

Total so far, Books - 12, Pages - 3,172

Next - My Enemy's Cradle by Sara Young

A little more about the Book You Should Read podcast  This is on the Simply Syndicated network.  Definitely worth a browse if your're unfamiliar there's definitely content on there for you.  Along with a forum to complement all the shows.  BYSR is hosted by Kennedy and discusses the world of literature.  It's wide ranging so I'm pretty sure will introduce you to something new.  It definitely has done for me.  It also accepts reviews from listeners and has a regular Book Club segment  from a group in England.  Give it a listen and send in a review :-)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book 11 of the 50 Book Challenge

The Story of the Scene by Roger Clarke, 164 pages

Started January 14th, finished February 22nd.

At work I like to have what I call a 'titbit' book to read.  I don't get much reading time so I need something I can dip in and out of.  Something I can leave over the weekend or while I go away and not lose the plot.

This is perfect for that it's the truth behind some famous, some not so famous, but always memorable scenes in cinema history.  The author has done his research and delved beyond the myths to tell us the truth, which is often just as interesting.  There are plenty of scenes discussed.  You'd be hard pressed not to have one of your favourite films in there.  I'd definitely recommend it to any cinephile.  Or quiz aficionado, there's  plenty of trivia in there.

4 out of 5 pawprints

Total so far, Books - 11, Pages - 2,924

Next - The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book 10 of the 50 Book Challenge

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, 159 pages

Started February 17th, finished February 21st.

I'll state right away that this won't be a comparison with the film.  Even though I'm a huge Kubrick fan I have only seen the film once, in strange viewing circumstances and my memories are corrupt to say the least.  Mr Meks and I watched the film when we awoke in the middle of the night due to 'Jet Lag'.  We then went back to bed and both had horrid nightmares once we got back to sleep.  So, though this is a rare instance of me watching the film before I read the book.  I can safely say it didn't flavour my interpretation in anything other than visually.  Alex looks like McDowell and the setting is 60's futuristic.

This has been hanging around my bookshelves for far too long.  A local author and a cult classic, I should be ashamed to have left it this long.  The copy I read had a nice long introduction by Blake Morrison .  I'm never sure about introductions to novels.  I'm not sure if background knowledge enhances the book or if it should be read 'blind' with any explanations left until afterwards.  Well I read the intro first and found it quite an interesting background to the novel.  I really should have left it to the end though.  I want to see the author's vision alone.

I found the slang in the book made it slow progress to read.  For a short book it took a lot of concentration and longer than I expected to read.  The use of 'like' was like really irritating.  I think this is due to its common usage now rather than Burgess' fault though.

The book takes a look at violence in the individual and the state but doesn't really delve deep.  It provokes thought but not too much of it.  I found it quite simplistic.  I can't say I enjoyed reading it.  It was more a 'ticking off the list' experience.  The use of slang gave you more to figure out than the actual characters themselves.

It's a book I will read again and see how I feel when I'm more familiar with the language used.  I am going to read another of his books and see how I find them as the language use in this makes me think it can't be typical of his work.  Any suggestions on which of his books?

3 out of 5 pawprints

Total so far, Books - 10, Pages - 2,760

Next - Story of the Scene by Roger Clarke

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I signed up to the Goodreads website over two years ago.  Input a few books and forgot it existed.  Inspired by the 50 Book Challenge (and due to the phone app version) I'm giving it another go.

I won't be updating page numbers.  That';s just soul destroying if you're getting through a book far too slowly.  I will be updating my 'read' and 'to read' though.  If you fancy befriending me on what is apparently the largest social network for readers in the world (and it's free) my profile can be found here

Happy reading!

Book 9 of the 50 Book Challenge

The Diary of a Nobody  by Weedon Grossmith, 216 pages

Started February 15th, finished February 17th.

This a book I'd never heard of that is apparently a classic.  I only discovered it because my dad recommended it and lent it to me.  I'm so glad he did.  It's a very witty book that's a joy to read.  The short, snappy diary entries make it a book to whizz through.  Light relief from the world outside the pages.

The funny thing is, though the book is over 100 years old there are so many things which are still the same.  many things, mainly transport, which are very different but I'm beginning to wonder if humanity and its prejudices change at all over time.

I will definitely come back to this book, more than once I reckon.  It even gives Oldham a mention :-)

5 out of 5 pawprints

Total so far, Books - 9, Pages - 2,601

Next - A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Monday, February 21, 2011

The TimeVault Podcast

This is a new podcast by two of the presenters from, the now placed to rest, Cadmium2 podcast.

Their remit is to discuss Hammer output, The Avengers, Doctor Who and I'm guessing other things will pop up from time to time.  

I have just listened to the first episode and really enjoyed it.  They discuss Hammer's version of Quatermass and the Pit.  A film I like very much.

They are fans of their subject but are not blind to any faults they may come across.  It was a great show because it looked at the good and the bad and wasn't just a fan gush.  They seem to have picked subject matter they are fond of and very well informed about.  I am subscribed in iTunes and vigourously suggest you give it a download if you have any interest in some of Britain's best screen output.

The show blog can be found here To subscribe in iTunes search for The TimeVault.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Manchester's Haunted Underworld

Dave bought places on Manchester Confidential's 'Haunted Underworld' tour, as part of my Christmas present.  For a member of Subterrenea Britannica that's a pretty snazzy gift.  Getting underneath your own city with a damn good tour guide is a fine way to while away a Saturday afternoon.

We met in Manchester, behind St Ann's Church where the tour began.  There were plenty of people on the tour so hopefully these tours will keep going and expand their remit. It's about time Manchester got some recognition of its heritage.

Our tour guide was Philippa and she was very good.  A font of local, historical information.  What was rather worrying, for someone who is not so fond of the dark, was her getting us to agree not to use our torches.  I was mollified with the offer of a prize at then end though.  She gave us a brief talk on and around St Ann's Square and then led us down into the depths.  To tell us dark tales, while we didn't switch our torches on.  I stayed super close to Dave, just in case.....   In a nice reversal we got to go up quite a few flights of stairs to get a view of Manchester from above that is not available normally.  The tour has atmosphere even if it doesn't take in a huge amount of tunnels.  I won't give any details of the tour as it's best 'spoiler free'.

I have to tell you though that I did win the prize!

I have it from a trusted source that there is more to see on the Great Northern tunnels tour.  Which I'm already booked on.  I think these tours are great value for money and would definitely recommend the one I've been on with my trusted sources recommending the other.

Here are the links:  Haunted Underworld  Great Northern

If you are interested in what's underneath your feet as you eat, drink and shop I can recommend two good books by Keith Warrender Underground Manchester and the follow up Below Manchester I'm hoping to see more from these books on The Great Northern Tour.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Book 8 of the 50 Book Challenge

Vendetta by Michael Dibdin, 238 pages

Started February 12th, finished February 15th.

This is the second book in my Aurelio Zen omnibus.  I felt more at home with the character in his second outing.

This book once again starts in Rome and gives us a lovely feel for the city.  As well as a Venetian feeling slightly at odds with the world outside Venice.  The book also takes us to Sardinia and gives us not the most flattering portrait of small town Sardinia.  I was interested to learn how things we expect to happen in Sicily and Naples are as prevalent t in other outlying areas.

There were parts to this tale which seemed a little far fetched to me.  As well as a little OTT and not necessary to keep me interested.  However, I did enjoy it and was a nice enjoyable read.  I have no idea if the tale is as far fetched as it seems maybe I just leas a sheltered life.

As detective fiction goes it doesn't reach the levels of my triumvirate, Harry Bosch, Kurt Wallander and Guido Brunetti but I will finish the trilogy I've borrowed.

3 out of 5 pawprints

Total so far, Books - 8, Pages - 2,385

Next - The Diary of a Nobody by Weedon Grossmith

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book 7 of the 50 Book Challenge

Cat Confidential by Vicky Halls, 326 pages

Started February 7th, finished February 11th.

This is another re-read.  An essential one as we have 2 new cats in the house.  Very timid cats.  I am not into 'Pet Whispering' and was very dubious about this book when my mum first recommended it to me about 5 years ago.  However when I lost the cat I had at the time I was devastated and read the chapter on 'Coping with Bereavement'.  It was very informative.  This led to me reading the entire book over a few days.

I am so glad I chose not to ignore it.  This isn't a book about counselling your cat.  It's a book about understanding why your cat behaves as it does and how you can help a cat behaving as it shouldn't.  On the whole it's a great sensible book which makes you take a step back from your assumptions.  Assumptions all cat owners have.  I've yet to meet a cat owner who isn't surprised by the logical way at least one of their assumptions is explained to be wrong in the book.

The author is a cat lover herself who aims to get us to stop anthropomorhising our cats.  They aren't human and though there are occasional similarities they are very different beasts!  The books is full of case studies to help illustrate the points raised.  These made me laugh, cry and look at myself.  It's nice to find a very helpful informative book that is a joy to read.  My only quibble is her use of homeopathy.  In her defense she doesn't claim any scientific evidence.

I'd thoroughly recommend this book to any cat owner.  You may be seeing one or two more of her books on here as we try to give our cats the best home possible.

4.5 pawprints out of 5

Total so far, Books - 7, Pages - 2,147

Next - Vendetta by Michael Dibdin

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book 6 of the 50 Book Challenge

Cross of Iron by Willi Heinrich, 478 pages

Started January 27th, finished February 7th.

This one is a re-read but the first reading was a long time ago.

Another one that's been hanging around the 'to read' pile with intent.  So I decided it was to come on holiday with me.  I didn't read half as much whilst away as I meant to but I did get into this book.

As well as having read the book I'd also seen the film.  My incredible sieve of a memory had left me with only a vague memory of events.  I found the writing style took a little time to get into but not enough to put me off.  It's a fascinating look at life on the other side of WWII.  I have no idea how accurate the tale is but as the author fought for Germany on the Eastern Front, in the division described in the novel, I'm assuming it's pretty close to the truth.  It tells the same story as other books on war that I've read.  War is a horrible experience.  The interesting thing is the similarities to be found in people the world over.  No matter what 'side' they are on.

I can't say the book is enjoyable but that's solely the fault of the subject matter.  I'll be keeping the book and will probably come back to it in the future at some point.

3.5 pawprints out of 5.

Total so far, Books - 6, Pages - 1,821

Next - Cat Confidential by Vicky Halls

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Book 5 of the 50 Book Challenge

Ratking by Michael Dibdin, 265 pages

Started January 21st, finished January 27th.

I've been meaning to get into the Aurelio Zen series for a while now.  Just somehow Dibdin never got to the top of the 'to read' pile.  It got a meteoric rise to the top when the BBC screened adaptations of the books.  I had to get to know Zen myself before I saw someone else's interpretation of him.

Zen's a Venetian living and working in Rome, sent to work on a case in Perugia.  He's pretty typical of fictional detectives.  There's nothing super original in the character so far.  The interesting part of the book comes at looking at the day to day corruption in Italy.  Something that never fails to fascinate me.

The case Zen's sent to solve is a pretty interesting tale.  Kept my attention throughout and kept me interested to see who was guilty, who was innocent and who was in the grey areas.

The thing I liked most about the book is the sense of place the author gives.  His descriptions of Italy are great.  When a book makes me want to buy a 'plane ticket it's doing something right.

4 out of 5 pawprints.  I'm looking forward to the second book in the series :-)

Total so far, Books - 5, Pages - 1,343

Next - Cross of Iron by Willie Heinrich

PS.  Two more of my Twitter buddies have joined the challenge.  Their blogs can be found:

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book 4 of the 50 Book Challenge

How to Drink by Victoria Moore, 327 pages

Started January 16th, finished January 21st.

I can't remember where I got the tip for this book.  It was either online somewhere or a newspaper article.  I'm just really glad I followed it up.

This is a book that helps to fill the whole in the drinks world not covered by wine or cocktails.  The food world is well served by the number of books dedicated to it.  The drinks world is badly served in comparison.    If you're looking for a book on wine, well you could choose from 100's of titles.  Cocktail recipe book, hundreds.  But not every drink is wine or a cocktail.  

This book looks at times of year and what drinks suit the seasons.  It also gives recommendations for foods to suit those drinks.  There are plenty of recipes for drinks in there.  Some you'll know, many you won't.  Soft drinks are given plenty of time too.  As are tea and coffee.  Wine and cocktails are there but don't takle over the whole book.  They are mentioned where they should be.

This book is probably going to cost me a fair few bob as I work through the ones I need to try.  Also the ones I need to do properly, rather than the corrupt versions we have become used to.  I've already managed one.  A Campari Spritzer in Northern Italy.  Wrong time of year but the right place.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone with an interest in food and drink.  It is definitely going to add flair to my dinner parties, BBQs, Girls Nights, etc.

Total so far, Books - 4, Pages - 1,078

Next - Ratking by Michael Dibdin

Monday, February 14, 2011

Private Lives at Oldham Coliseum

This is the final show on this season ticket.  Oldham Coliseum is my local theatre and we always get great value from our sesason tickets.  If you're nearby and are interested their website is here. I recommend it as great value for money and a good night out.  It's the only theatre I know of where the cast join the audience for a beverage in the bar afterwards.

I was looking forward to this play a lot.  I saw Blithe Spirit a few years ago here and absolutely loved it.  Sitting down and seeing the Art Deco set I was ready to go.

The cast were great only 4 parts and a cameo.  Every one played really well.  I was a bit dubious about one of the cast's costumes but that was part of her character, poor woman.  The sets looked nice.  Everything was as it should be.

The only problems was I just didn't like the characters in the play.  It was a case of spending time with four people I really didn't like.  While I was with them big things were happening to them.  I couldn't care less.  I was surprised by how unlikable all the characters were.  It seems I need someone to identify with on stage.

The production was great but unfortunately I felt let down by the script.  2.5 out of 5 pawprints.

I would like to see another Coward play.  As the two I have seen have been at either end of my enjoyment spectrum.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Rum Trail

Last Thursday Mr Meks, a couple of mates and I departed on  Rum Trail.  The purpose of the trip was to discover more about a drink I was unfamiliar with to say the least.  My knowledge stems from a few teen mishaps with Bacardi.  Hence it's not been tried since.  The only rum to have crossed my lips has been unidentifiable in daquiris or the like.  As I've been getting more interested in food and drink lately I thought this needed remedying.  The idea was 6 bars, 6 tasters of rum, an explanation on the history, origin, etc of that rum and a cocktail made to show it's mixability.  

As there were more than 6 drinks involved here I thought it wise to keep some kind of record as the night went on.  memories were going to be hazy if they existed at all.  I used Twitter for this.  Tweeting the rums as they happened to my rum loving web buddy whose blog can be found here.  By 'favouriting' the tweets I'm hoping to be able recreate my experience.  Here goes.....

First up, Selfridges basement where I was dismayed to discover we were tasting Bacardi (see above).  A Cuban White Rum which is apparently now produced in Puerto Rico.  I was pleasantly surprised to find it no longer makes me feel ill.  Although for the life of me I couldn't pick out any notes except Bacardi.  I'm a Philistine.  Bacardi was then mixed into everyone's (except mine) summer favourite - the Mojito.  It was a damn good Mojito but I'm not a fresh mint in my drinks kinda girl.  Mr Meks was very pleased with his though.

Next Keko Moku in the Northern Quarter.  My first time in this fab little bar.  It won't be the last.  Here I tried my first ever Dark Rum, Gosling's Black Seal.  I realised how long I've been missing out on Dark Rum :-(  It was a lovely drink.  It was mixed into a Dark n Stormy, Bermuda's national drink.  Also one of the world's few trademarked cocktails.  I loved this drink, my favourite of the night.  Although it's very sweet and I wouldn't be drinking many of them in one evening.  It was Ginger Beer over ice, topped with Black Seal.  It looked amazing the rum floating made it look exactly as the name suggested.  As you got further down the ingredients mixed and it just got better.  I'm now thinking a holiday in Bermuda is a damn fine idea.

Next door to Socio Rehab next.  Where we tasted a Guatemalan dark rum, Ron Zacapa, Centenario Rum Sistema Solera 23.  This taster was served with dark chocolate.  That's never going to do any harm.  This rum was nice but not as much to my taste as the Gosling.  The cocktail was a very well mixed affair containing, Cherry and Orange.  As well made as it was it just wasn't to my taste really.

Over to Stevenson Square next.  I didn't even know there was a bar on there.  Hula Tiki Lounge, a fun basement destination.  Here we tried Havana Club, I 'think' it was a golden rum.  Things were getting a tad foggy by this point.  The rum must have been making me more accepting as we had a Pina Colada or something very similar.  Normally I wouldn't dream of drinking one.  Although it was way too creamy and very sweet I polished mine off.

We then all piled onto a minibus, over the river and into Corridor.  Here it was  Jamaican Appleton Rum, which was pleasant enough but I can't see myself buying a bottle anytime soon.  I can't for the life of me remember the cocktail name,  It was a small drink, strong and fruity.  You can't really go wrong with cocktails in Corridor though, it's their speciality. 

Back on the bus and the trail ended in one of our favourite bars, Mojo.  Here we tasted a Venezuelan rum, Diplomatico that out tour guide raved about.  I can't actually remember what it tasted like, just that I thought I liked the Gosling better.  Then we were fed a lovely Caribbean BBQ.  Followed by various free-flowing rum punches from the bar.

The tour guide we had was amazing.  He had the knowledge and the passion needed to keep a group of rum drunks interested in the subject of what they were drinking.  All for £25.  I can't recommend it enough.  the last tour is Thursday 10th Feb.  Be there if you can, tickets are from Selfridges.

The moral of the story, I like my rum darker rather than white or golden.  I just wish I hadn't missed out on so many years of enjoyment.

5 pawprints out of 5

I'll leave you with a pic of a Dark n Stormy while I go off to search for some Gosling's Black Seal.....

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mogadishu at The Royal Exchange

Last night we saw the final play on our season ticket.  Mogadishu by Vivienne Franzmann.

This was the blurb from the flyer: When white secondary school teacher Amanda is pushed to the ground by black student Jason, she's reluctant to report it as she knows exclusion could condemn him to a future as troubled as his past.  Once the boy and his peers have decide to protect themselves by spinning a story of their own, Amanda finds herself sucked into a vortex of lies in which victim becomes perpetrator.  With the truth becoming less clear and more dangerous by the day, it isn't long before careers, relationships and even lives are under threat in Vivienne Franzmann's GRIPPING and URGENT play.

The play has won the  Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting   The writer is an ex-teacher herself and her experiences must come through in the play.  I will be reading some interviews later to see how much of herself and her experiences she put into the teacher character.

The play opens with a bang.  Grabbing your attention and letting you know it isn't shy of tackling the hard-hitting subjects it raises.  It's set in a place I'm not familiar with.  I haven't been to school for many years and when I was there the issues raised in the play never crossed my path.  It does seem very realistic though.  The first issue they smash you with is race and 'playing the race card'.  Something I haven't seen put on the table so bluntly in the art world before.

The majority of the cast are teenagers.  All are fantastic in their roles.  I hope they all go on to have long careers in the acting industry.  They play gritty roles in some instances and play them excellently.  The 'precocious child actor' never rears it head once.  The cast members I couldn't really believe in were the 2 members of school staff.  They didn't come across as real, but acting.  The stage is one of the most minimalist I've seen there.  Letting the actors draw your eye fully.

I was thoroughly gripped by the first half, it was tense and sucked you right in.  The second half I found a little too long.  The whole play could have been shortened by 30 minutes.  I'd have dropped the extra issues brought in during the second half.  It is still a fantastic play though.  One which I'd urge people to make the effort to see.  You have until Feb 19th to see it at The Royal Exchange, Manchester before it transfers to The Lyric, Hammersmith

I can guarantee it will have you discussing the issues it raises as you leave.

4 pawprints out of 5.