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  1. Yesterday
  2. You become part of the Chain when your child is kidnapped. To get your child back, you have to pay a ransom, then identify and kidnap the next link in the Chain. Only when the next link kidnaps the link after that do you get your child back. And if your chosen link in the Chain breaks - by speaking to law enforcement or getting cold feet - you have to clean up the mess and form a new link. Even if the Chain breaks weeks or months later, you might have to get back into the field of play. Once you are in the Chain, you can never be free. This is all very implausible. But when you think it through, it just might be possible... The Chain is a hugely intelligent psychological thriller that depends upon parents’ willingness to do anything - absolutely whatever it takes - to protect their kids. So we see amateur, mum-and-dad kidnappers being manipulated into making threats, carrying them out and getting involved in very dark deeds. It is lurid and gory, but by focusing on the people and the emotions rather than the acts themselves, Adrian McKinty brings the reader along. There is no particular point where the reader says “that wouldn’t happen”. I have enjoyed McKinty’s novels before (especially the Sean Duffy series), and this one is as good or better than his previous material. I really couldn’t put this one down. *****
  3. Agreed. I remember several years ago seeing a proposal within the UK Government to make it harder to employ people without checking their immigration status and to introduce draconian penalties for those who did. The strongest argument against was from those with an economic perspective who argued that the hotel, hospitality and cleaning industries in London would have to shut down. At that time (15 or more years ago), I lived next door to a house full of Russians who I presumed didn’t have work permits. They were fabulous neighbours - polite, friendly and quiet.
  4. My Sister The Serial Killer is a lively novel set in modern, middle class Nigeria. Korede narrates the story, explaining how she has to clear up the mess left by her sister Ayoola as her relationships end in ever more gory circumstances. At first, the killings might seem plausible; Ayoola might have ended up in difficult situations that went wrong. But as the novel proceeds, the justifications become ever-more sketchy and the situations look ever-more avoidable. In between the killings, we get a picture of Korede as an over-protective, jealous sister who pretends to have reconciled herself to being the less attractive of the sisters. There are all sorts of catty, cutting comments about Ayoola and the advantages that her good looks bring her. Meanwhile, Korede is keen that we should know that anything she herself might lack in looks, she more than makes up for in guile. This is all presented against a vivid depiction of modern Lagos where education is the key to a bright future but where witchcraft bubbles along not far beneath the surface. There is a humour (much of it pretty black) running through the narrative. The key point of intrigue, though, is trying to work out whether Korede is a reliable narrator, trying to extricate Ayoola from her various misdeeds, or whether Korede is an unreliable narrator with a much more sinister gameplan. These two alternative readings seem equally valid and are never resolved... My Sister is a short, quick read that should leave most readers pretty satisfied. ****0
  5. Last week
  6. They that have power to hurt and will do none, That do not do the thing they most do show, Who, moving others, are themselves as stone, Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow, They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces And husband nature’s riches from expense; They are the lords and owners of their faces, Others but stewards of their excellence. The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet, Though to itself it only live and die, But if that flower with base infection meet, The basest weed outbraves his dignity: For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds; Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds. Shakespeare - 'Sonnet 94'
  7. Byron's Poetry and Prose, Norton Critical Edition
  8. And thou art dead, as young and fair As aught of mortal birth; And form so soft, and charms so rare, Too soon return'd to Earth! Though Earth receiv'd them in her bed, And o'er the spot the crowd may tread In carelessness or mirth, There is an eye which could not brook A moment on that grave to look. I will not ask where thou liest low, Nor gaze upon the spot; There flowers or weeds at will may grow, So I behold them not: It is enough for me to prove That what I lov'd, and long must love, Like common earth can rot; To me there needs no stone to tell, 'T is Nothing that I lov'd so well. Yet did I love thee to the last As fervently as thou, Who didst not change through all the past, And canst not alter now. The love where Death has set his seal, Nor age can chill, nor rival steal, Nor falsehood disavow: And, what were worse, thou canst not see Or wrong, or change, or fault in me. The better days of life were ours; The worst can be but mine: The sun that cheers, the storm that lowers, Shall never more be thine. The silence of that dreamless sleep I envy now too much to weep; Nor need I to repine That all those charms have pass'd away, I might have watch'd through long decay. The flower in ripen'd bloom unmatch'd Must fall the earliest prey; Though by no hand untimely snatch'd, The leaves must drop away: And yet it were a greater grief To watch it withering, leaf by leaf, Than see it pluck'd to-day; Since earthly eye but ill can bear To trace the change to foul from fair. I know not if I could have borne To see thy beauties fade; The night that follow'd such a morn Had worn a deeper shade: Thy day without a cloud hath pass'd, And thou wert lovely to the last, Extinguish'd, not decay'd; As stars that shoot along the sky Shine brightest as they fall from high. As once I wept, if I could weep, My tears might well be shed, To think I was not near to keep One vigil o'er thy bed; To gaze, how fondly! on thy face, To fold thee in a faint embrace, Uphold thy drooping head; And show that love, however vain, Nor thou nor I can feel again. Yet how much less it were to gain, Though thou hast left me free, The loveliest things that still remain, Than thus remember thee! The all of thine that cannot die Through dark and dread Eternity Returns again to me, And more thy buried love endears Than aught except its living years. And Thou art Dead, as Young and Fair BY LORD BYRON (GEORGE GORDON)
  9. I wanted to read this as soon as I saw it, so acquired it quickly and then read it quickly. The book is set in the late 1700's and rolls over to 1800. The experiment in question is : John Warlow, a barely literate labourer answers an advert for someone to spend seven years locked in comfortable apartments, below ground, with every comfort but no human contact at all. In return he will get fifty pounds a year for the rest of his life. His wife and children (of which there are six) will be very well provided for during this time period. The advertiser is Herbert Powyss, a very wealthy single man who seeks to impress the science community with what he thinks is the ultimate in scientific experiment. This is well written and absolutely fascinating. The author saw, in real life, an advert from a Herbert Powyss for such a person to take part in said experiment and did some research to find out what happened. She found nothing so made it up herself. The only criticism I have is that the author relies too much on Latin phrases near the beginning of the book which I did not know myself and could not translate. The few I plugged into a search engine didn't enlighten me further so I'd say brackets with the meaning would have been useful but it did not distract from the story. I also did not like the way it ended, it just stopped. Perhaps the author is planning a sequel but it just did not seem to end properly. That said, I'd still recommend this book, it's easy to read and interesting enough to keep the reader turning the pages.
  10. The following is a list of classic novels that I have read and also have reviewed. Book Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Book Review: Animal Farm by George Orwell Book reviewer: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie Book review: Une page d'amour by Émile Zola Book Review: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo Review of the novel The Count Of Monte by Alexandre Dumas Book review: La Conquête de Plassans by Émile Zola Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens L'Assommoir Book Review by Émile Zola Les Rougon-Macquart Book Review: Kim written by Rudyard Kipling
  11. Sounds very good, but they would be preaching to the choir with me. This whole wall on the border with Mexico is absurd and, unlike other border States, Texas has never been very excited about stopping the flow of immigrants. They do all the construction work, maintenance work, etc. and we know it. Apparently people it other states don't know it, but they can only be willfully blind. Several years ago, Arizona passed legislation that the police could stop and ask you to prove you were a citizen, which has never been done. Someone asked the then-governor of Texas, Rick Perry, if Texas were going to do that. And he said, "No, those kinds of laws aren't good for Texas." He's a right-wing Republican.
  12. I loved these books growing up. My father must have read me most of the stories a dozen times. My kids were never very interested, which disappointed me.
  13. Lanny is a young boy, growing up in an ordinary village with ordinary people - underneath which Dead Papa Toothwort, an ancient burry man, lies listening to the inane conversation above. The novel is narrated from various viewpoints: Lanny’s Mum, Lanny’s Dad, and Pete, an elderly and accomplished artist. The narratives all centre around the relationship between the narrator and Lanny, leading the reader to imagine this some kind of reminiscence about the formative years of a now great man. And interspersed, we have the bored interjections of Dead Papa Toothwort who presents individual lines of conversations one might hear down the pub (somewhat irritatingly presented in word-art form that is mightily difficult to read on a Kindle). So, for the first half of then novel, we see an emerging friendship between Lanny and Pete as the old painter tries to help Lanny to develop his own artistic skills. Lanny’s parents are happy with this as it provides free childcare, allowing them to pursue their own interests (Lanny’s Mum is a crime writer and Lanny’s Dad works long hours in London). Then, half way through, Dead Papa Toothwort decides to roll the dice and make something interesting happen in the village. This, apparently, is something he is wont to do every century or so. And Lanny disappears. Fingers point, gossip spreads. People question Pete’s motives; they question Lanny’s Mum and Dad’s parenting techniques. Kids at school who ostracised Lanny start to get remorseful... There is something bucolic about the novel. It blends folk tradition with very current withering about house prices and commuting. It bears more than a passing resemblance to Reservoir 13/The Reservoir Tapes in that although Lanny is the glue that binds the story together, it is more of an observational drama about village life and personal interests. Lanny is stunningly well told; the lines drip from the page and the reader is left wanting more. The ending is almost satisfying. Booker longlisted. Surely a shoo in for the shortlist (or more?) *****
  14. I have been a fan of John Lanchester for a number of years and The Wall is every bit as good as his previous works. Ostensibly set in a future world where sea levels have risen to catastrophic levels, the Wall is in fact a wry commentary on present days right wing politics around the world and fear of immigration. Kavanagh is a young man embarking on his two years of national service patrolling the Wall - a high concrete structure built around the British coastline to keep the sea - and The Others - away. Kavanagh is a typical late teen in dreaming of completing his service and working his way up into the elite. Just so long as he can complete his national service without mishap, either being killed in action against invading parties of Others or, even worse, being put to sea to balance out an Other who might have made it across the Wall. We see, through Kavanagh’s uncritical eyes, that not only does there seem to be plenty of space and resource in Britain, but there is even a problem with low birth rates. Despite this, the drawbridge has well and truly been pulled up because “Britain is Full”. Those Others who do make it in are only allowed to work as Help (essentially servants) in a Gastarbeiter role. Despite their apparently necessary work, they will never become full citizens. As the novel develops, Kavanagh has an opportunity to travel and see different perspectives; he is able to see the adulation given to the Defenders by ordinary citizens who imagine some kind of noble selflessness among the conscripted men and women; he sees the life of comfort of the older generation who created the system; and ultimately he sees the other side of the Wall. As a novel, the Wall is pacy and readable - if perhaps the non-Kavanagh characters are a little under-developed. But as a satire, it is powerful. It exposes the economic and moral lack of justification for the current fashion for isolationism. Yes, that means Brexit, it means Stop The Boats, it means Love it or Leave, it means the current predilection with finding the enemies within and stripping them of their citizenship. The Wall is a very necessary novel for our times that will pose (and leave unanswered) many questions about loyalty, identity, patriotism and xenophobia. And it is absolutely not about climate change. *****
  15. O I forbid you, maidens a’, That wear gold in your hair, To come or gae by Carterhaugh, For young Tam Lin is there. There’s nane that gaes by Carterhaugh But they leave him a wad, [token] Either their rings, or green mantles, Or else their maidenhead. Janet has kilted her green kirtle A little aboon her knee, And she has braided her yellow hair A little aboon her bree, [above her brow] And she’s awa to Carterhaugh, As fast as she can hie. When she came to Carterhaugh Tam Lin was at the well, And there she found his steed standing, But away was himsel. She had na pu’d a double rose, A rose but only twa, Till up then started young Tam Lin, Says, Lady, thou’s pu nae mae. Why pu’s thou the rose, Janet, And why breaks thou the wand? Or why comes thou to Carterhaugh Withoutten my command? ‘Carterhaugh, it is my ain, My daddie gave it me; I’ll come and gang by Carterhaugh, And ask nae leave at thee.’ Traditional - from 'Tam Lin'
  16. Was just thinking about about pluviophile, did I get that right. Luna, one of my favourite things during autumn and winter is the sound of rain on the awning over the living room window. So I guess I’m a rain lover too in certain settings.
  17. Good to hear from you Luna, Madeleine and Meg. Hope your gardening is successful in spite of the varying climates, Madeleine and Meg. We have been enjoying our first batch of tomatoes because of the hot weather, home grown tastes so good. As to reading, I have had trouble settling down to read, depression and anxiety aren’t Too far away unfortunately luckily not all the time. Have been going for short walks in the morning around 7 am when it’s cool and then I sit at the front door and enjoy the scent of the petunias in the front garden. I wanted something chatty and uninvolved so I’m reading a Maeve Binchy book and enjoying it. I spend a lot of time alone as Dave sleeps so much and has had a bit of a personality change, complains a lot. He says he should be able to do what he wants at his age, unfortunately his physical condition is not great. So we carry on and do the best we can, some days good others not as well. Sorry about this being a downer, will try to be more cheery next time. 🙁
  18. You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise. Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? ’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room. Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I’ll rise. Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops, Weakened by my soulful cries? Does my haughtiness offend you? Don’t you take it awful hard ’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines Diggin’ in my own backyard. You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise. Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise That I dance like I’ve got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs? Out of the huts of history’s shame I rise Up from a past that’s rooted in pain I rise I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise. From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
  19. & The Second Jungle Book I won't put a synopsis here since the story is well known and the films are, more or less, true to the story. I read this when I was at school, very probably primary school but it was so long ago that I can't actually remember. Therefore, when I came to read it again it was as if It was new. Thoroughly enjoyed it. I have read books from my childhood that disappointed as an adult but this didn't, it was marvellous. Highly recommended.
  20. I also enjoyed it a great deal, but found the beginning slow and dangerously close to chick-lit. But I knew that Mr. HG wouldn't steer me wrong and he didn't.
  21. We had quite heavy rain on Friday evening but none since, despite it being forecast. It has been very windy though, especially on Saturday, and I had to try to prop up my tomato plants - they're still only green, no sign of the tomatoes ripening, not enough sun
  22. Put me down as a pluviophile* - we have had far too little of it here in the SE, this year and far, far too much sun! And wind, but there's not much point in moaning about the wind here in Meridian Cliffs, as it is almost a constant. The weekend's rain all but missed us - I had to get the hose out on the veggies on friday afternoon, following what was supposed to be a stormy night. The accompanying wind arrived, of course, and I was out at 7am on Saturday fixing guy ropes to the bean poles to stop them ending up in next-doors garden. The salt laden wind has just about done for the bean plants, the leaves are either blown right off, or shrivelled and crispy. The clematis, those that have not been blown off their supports, have also been dessicated by the salty wind, and although it is raining pretty heavily this morning I doubt there will be much chance of recovery this season. * I may change my stance on this during the winter
  23. Nice to hear from you Momac, I'm glad that things are improving a little bit. Summer hasn't been that great, both here in Scotland and in England. We have been having torrential rain and thunderstorms and some people have been stuck on trains and others suffered power outages. I found a new word - pluviophile - which means someone who enjoys rain! Just as well as there has been a lot of it. Still, plenty of time for reading.
  24. I thoroughly enjoyed this though I agree with you Mr HG the beginning was very slow.
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