Category Archives: Reviews

2015 arrives – cold and crisp

Sean, Q and DB5

Bond’s DB5

So, we’ve had a very little snow, and it barely stayed for half a day. Other than that it is cold, mainly clear and rather bracing when we carefully venture out for short periods of time.  The bird feeders in the garden seem to be constantly needing filling – and the cheeky squirrel trying to pretend he’s a blue tit when he’s hanging off the perch on the seed feeder just makes me smile.  Happily he (she?) and the birds seem to get along – and when the birds think (s)he’s had enough they let him/her know.

DTs moves into a bit higher gear now as we enter intensive preparations for Sleeping Beauty in March.  All coming along well so far – just need to produce the tickets so the Box Office can open!  This weekend’s job I think.

Goldfinger 2

Goldfinger’s Rolls

Having started 25 hrs work a week from December I am really enjoying (and benefiting from) my shorter hours.  I don’t feel exhausted all the time, and I’ve had the time to do lots of those little things that get overlooked when working flat out full-time – like cleaning, ironing…. No, but also some of the fun things too.  Will and I spent a couple of lovely days in London last month – seeing Bond in Motion (an exhibition of James Bond’s vehicles), followed by dinner at Brasserie Zedel (great premises and excellent food) and Shakespeare in Love – great show, see it if you get chance. We also had a mooch around one of my favourite markets at Spitalfields – an antique market mostly the day we were there – and a very eclectic collection it was too!

Also had the time to join Becky and her colleagues at Reelscape Communities – doing great workshops and motivating kids through practical work with film industry professionals.  Keep an eye on their blog for fascinating developments and great pictures of the kids engaged in what they are doing.  Loved seeing the excitement when a big camera was brought in for them to operate!

Read some good books too – watch out on my Goodreads (on left) feed for all the ratings and reviews.  NB this isn’t everything I read – just what I think deserves a wider audience.  Latest rave is Sally Gardner’s The Door that Led Where – once you pick it up you just have to finish it!


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Cropredy 2014

Cropredy 2014Well, what a fantastic weekend!  The weather was mainly kind – though Friday night was very very rainy – a deluge in fact.  Pity the poor campers!  We went for a compromise this year and stayed at the Travelodge at Cherwell services – just 10 miles down the road from Cropredy.  And the benefit of the hot shower, private bathroom and a proper bed really paid off – we’ll do it again – definitely!

The programme was amazing – and a real mix, some I liked, some not so, but all lovely to have such a parade of live music in front of your eyes!  I have already downloaded the last Blackbeard’s Tea Party album and will listen to that a great deal; plus really looking forward to Fairport’s next album – due in February – the tracks they played sounded very rock based which is great.  

I shall look out on my streaming service for a few more I want to know more about – Al Stewart was lovely, Travelling Band were great, Cara Dillon has a great voice, Treetop Flyers were fun.  Could all be a very interesting few months as I explore!

And all this whilst having time to read in-between the bands.  Lee Child Killing Floor (the first in the series, which I had not read to this point.)  Great page turner, and sets the scene for later Jack Reacher thrillers.

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Reading again

So – business at work has been fairly relentless just recently so reading has been the escape!  Highlights from the last month to 6 weeks show a good mix.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is set during the Second World War and takes the story of two heroic but relatively ordinary young women who work for and with SOE (the special ops of WWII).  It grips,  you identify with the characters and yet I can not envisage being that physically brave – ever.  I laughed and cried with this book.  It’s on the Carnegie Award short list – fingers crossed!

hartmanSeraphina by Rachel Hartman is the story of a young woman who feels she is a bit of a misfit in the world where dragons walk about in their shape-changed format, to keep the people and the dragons from going to war again.  As a major celebration of the long term peace approaches Seraphina finds out some strange truths about herself and her family, ad has to decide where her loyalties lay.  a major US best seller this is a fascinating take on the usual people versus dragons tale. Loved it, can’t wait for the next volume.

Jeremy de Quidt’s Feathered Man is a dark, thrilling quest set in a Victorian Germany and full of scary and rather odd characters, some from Mayan mythology, some just downright wicked. Will definitely appeal to the slightly ghoulish.

I have also been reading a bit on my iPad. Two books recently – Fragments by Dan Wells – which failed to grab me, but that may have been the delivery media rather than the book.  Plus Anne Cassidy – Killing Rachel – a good thriller, with a surprising series of twists.  I do find it harder to engage with on screen reading, and I must admit I only supplement my reading of hard copy books with iPad materials.  Wonder if taht will change over time?

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Reading in January

Having had a couple of days off work with a very annoying reappearance of an old health problem there was only one thing I could do – read!  Image

I have long admired Catherine FisherIncarceron and Sapphique are amazing fantasy novels.  Her latest The Obsidian Mirror is another triumph.  It promises a whole series to follow  – and I can’t wait.  Oberon Venn is Jake’s godfather since his own father mysteriously disappeared some time before.  But Venn is very obsessive and secretive and Jake is convinced Venn murdered his father.  This is the page turning totally gripping First Book of the Chronoptika – an adventure in time and space, with all the elements of a country house mystery and a thriller set in the worst parts of Victorian London.  A literary style novel that fully engages the excitement as well as giving food for thought.



Interestingly – as I finished The Obsidian Mirror there arrived a publishers proof of one of my other favourite authors – Eoin Colfer.  Warp: Book 1 – The Reluctant Assassin has many similar elements – time travel, Victorian London slums, engaging characters and a ‘thrill a minute’ approach.   I imagine the style will appeal to established Colfer fans when it is published later this year – and it is a thoroughly enjoyable, fun, thrilling read.

To make a change from both of those I followed up with the
 latest Tim Bowler Sea of Whispers.  This is an exploration of growing up in a remote community, and of the hostility certain small communities exhibit to change or difference.  Hetty has always felt different, and has a sense of otherness that marks her out from her peers and community.  The arrival of an old woman washed up on the shore of the remote island in a storm unleashes a series of events and actions that appear to doom all involved.  Tim always writes with a style and elegance that makes his novels very readable – well worth trying.Tim Bowler

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the garden in the snow

the garden in the snow

Lovely to have the luxury of a week off in January – and nothing much in the diary to do during it!  So catching up on household tasks has been successful. The snow got in the way of a lunch engagement on Monday, and then was fairly hairy getting back from Kettering on Friday and  so it  stopped me getting out to a YLG Unconference on Saturday.  Such a shame.

I really do love snow – the quiet it brings and the lovely shapes the snow-covered trees make, but we are never prepared for it and it always seems to cause chaos!

So, I have spent the week reading, on the whole.  I have been struggling with Umberto Eco The Prague Cemetery.   Not because it’s a bad book, just that it is so complex with layer upon layer of intrigue and conspiracy and a diary format that one has to concentrate on.  I had to finish it though, as it is a compelling read, wickedly funny in places, and very dark.  Worth the effort but needs application to follow it through.

Having just seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey I shall now reread the original – only 40 years after first reading it!  The film was good – though rather overlong, and I am not sure seeing all the conflicts is necessary, but I shall have to see the next two films to make up my mind!

Work beckons for next week – wonder what the in box will show up!

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The Very End of 2012

OK so it has been a very busy autumn. Work just took off after the summer break. We worked flat out but had a good 75th Celebration in Gateshead. The whole day seems to have gone down well so we could do another and add day conferences to our offerings. Meanwhile Will and I had a lovely weekend just enjoying ourselves and also seeing Sheila, Harold and Caroline for Sunday lunch.

Since then it was just a matter of keeping going till Christmas when I had a chunk of leave booked and planned on just relaxing – which I did! We had a super Christmas, the party was the day before Christmas Eve so we had a shorter lead in than usual. The actual holiday was spent in watching some favourite films, playing cards, board games. Saw the aged Ps after Boxing Day and had a pleasant day with them – watching some old cine films that Roy had had put onto DVD including their wedding day!

Sarah left on Sunday to join Becky and Pete in London for New Year, so Will and I are off to the pub tonight to celebrate with friends!

Reading wise I have been catching up with a lot of the Carnegie long list titles – some good ones on there, it will be a really difficult decision for the judges this year. Have read about three quarters of them and then decided I’d do a bit of adult reading(!) over the holiday and have been enjoying Ben Aaronovitch, Irving Finkel and Daphne du Maurier. Will have to get back to some kids books soon – they’re piling up a bit!


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Thrilling Titles

A busy month and an unconscious choice of thrillers for the summer month.  Not sure why but a real mix made for some enjoyable reading. Nicola Upson has chosen to have Josephine Tey as the main character in her novels – and I read a second – Two for Sorrow, and found it as enjoyable as the first I had read, An Expert in Murder.  The character Tey is a playwright and author as was Tey herself, and has a friend who is an Inspector in the Police – a superb ploy on which to base a series of novels.  I shall read more!  In fact Upson’s Inspector is a similar character to Tey’s own Inspector Grant who features in To Love and Be Wise, a short but fulfilling read where a Hollywood photographer going missing in the English countryside seems to provide an insoluble riddle.  A lovely read!

Then to more gritty titles… I find Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar novels a little samey so was delighted to find Just One Look.  This is the story of the collapse of a family who, on the surface, appear to have an ideal existence.  Grace met her husband when recovering from a major accident at a theatre gig and they now have a good marriage and a good life, which for some reason falls apart the day Grace brings home a pack of photos she’s just had developed and there is an old photo somehow slipped into the family  snapshots.  Her husband, as a young man, is seen in the photo…  This thriller has several grim deaths, a handful of really unpleasant characters and a plot that keeps you enthralled from page 1 but you always want to know why, so you just have to keep reading.  Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is another of those iconic characters who, if they were slightly less well adapted would be a complete drop out.  But Jack is always in the midst of the action, and always one step ahead of the authorities. Gone Tomorrow is a another super read which starts with a seeming suicide bomber on the subway in NY, and ends in political intrigue.

Also, with much less grit, a great deal of humour and a frisson of sci-fi Jasper Fforde’s The Woman Who Died A Lot is the next Thursday Next novel.  I love these, such fun, with all the thriller elements but a wacky world where book characters, golems and werewolves police the literary world, and where big business is run from Swindon!  Read the series – they are great!

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