Monthly Archives: October 2015


Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

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 Browsing in my local charity shop a couple of weeks ago, I spotted this book and, recognising the title bought it on the basis that I didn’t think I’d read anything like it before, and I was right. From the opening chapter I was spirited away to a vibrant land, a culture and an era so diverse from my own that I was immediately hooked and remained so throughout the book. Although this isn’t the type of read to have you on the edge of your seat it is unputdownable all the same because the author makes you care so much about the little girl, Chiyo who is seperated from her family and sent to Gion to train as a Geisha in the years just before and after World War 2. Chiyo’s path is anything but smooth as she incurs the wrath of the cruel Geisha, Hatsumomo and we suffer alongside her as she recounts the fascinating, terrible and often beautiful world that the Geisha inhabits. In part I suppose you could call it a love story but it really is so much more than that.  The detail that Golden goes into is amazing, (his MA was in Japanese history) and the story a remarkable one that will remain with you long after you have finished reading it.


Historical novel

Number of Pages


Interesting Fact:

Sayuri (Chiyo’s geisha name) would not allow the manuscript for her book to be published until after her death and the deaths of several men who had figured prominently in her life for fear of embarrassing anybody.

Been made into a film?

Hai, here’s the link:

What I like about the book:

That I learned so much about a culture and period in time previously unknown to me, and all through the eyes of an insider. I also liked the fact that Sayuri’s story was told without rancour or judgement, that was just the way it was.

And dislike:

Although I loved the descriptive narrative of this book, sometimes Golden went into a wee bit too much detail about the clothing which at times made me switch off.

Final thoughts:

If you’re looking for a light and easy read or an action packed story then this definitely isn’t the one for you but if you fancy escaping into an entirely different culture and learning quite a bit along the way, then go for it. A fantastic and unpredictable read, Memoirs of a Geisha will have you rooting for little silver eyed Chiyo right up until the end.

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Autumn is Upon us


..and so it seemed a rather apt idea to take a look at books about people in the autumn of their lives. The three books I’ve chosen I think give a real sense of what life’s like for the elderly and where they fit in, or rather don’t fit in, in our society. And since I’m in charge here, I’ll start with one of my all time favourites, just because I can:

The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Jumped out of a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Ok, firstly what’s not to love about this title ? Anyone who calls their book something like this has got to be a wee bit different right? And perhaps it’s due to the fact that Jonasson is Swedish that this story is so unlike anything I’ve read before. It reminds me a lot of Forrest Gump in that the main character, Allan Karlsson seems so innocent at the outset despite the extraordinary events of his life but as we delve a little deeper into his backstory we see that there’s also a harder side to Allan too,unsurprising when you take a look at his formative years. Allan’s story is so fantastical that you could almost believe it’s real and this is one of those rare treats of a book that you can go back to time and again without ever getting bored of it because there’s so much going on it it. In short it’s a great adventure story that you just won’t want to end,

Been made into a film? Yes, here’s the link to the trailer:


Marks out of ten: 10…and that’s all I have to say about that.


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

More of a slow burner this one, though the mystery inherant in the story keeps you hooked right through until the end. I was kind of disappointed by the ending however as it seemed a bit of an anticlimax to me, it’s probably what would have happened in real life but hell, I read to get away from real life! Harold is another great character here, not entirely likeable but very real and in the latter stages of the book, we get to learn about the reasons for his  failings. I’d describe this maybe as an OAP road trip during which Harold finds himself, a very very slow road trip as he is travelling on foot. Rachel Joyce has written a companion novel for this book written from the perspective of Harold’s friend, called “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy” which I have yet to read. Has anyone given this one a go yet?

Marks out of ten: 7, although I was dithering between a 7 and an 8, so let’s call it a 7 1/2. I couldn’t second guess this book at all which appealed to me and I do love a good road trip but I did feel kind of a bit deflated by the end.


Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Out of the three books that I’ve reviewed here, this was the one that touched me the most for it’s telling of Maud’s story in the first person. Maud has lived with dementia for a while now and the world has become a bewildering place but despite all this Maud has retained her tenacity and determination to find out what has happened to her good friend, Elizabeth. But as we join Maud on her quest to decipher the notes she leaves for herself in an attempt to unravel the mystery, we journey back into her past and discover that there is another secret, lurking in the fog of her brain and threatening to break her heart all over again. Healy’s moving debut novel is not only heart breakingly moving but is also punctuated with moments of humour that had me laughing out loud. An excellent read that kept me guessing right up until the end.

Marks out of ten: 9

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The next generation of Mr Men

Roger Hargreaves’ army of Mr Men and Little Misses has been delighting children ever since their arrival in 1971 and came about when Hargreave’s son asked him what a tickle looked like. Well, of course Mr Tickle was born and the rest was history but I got to thinking the other day, where did Hargreaves get his inspiration from? Perhaps a logical place might have been  stories that he read himself and so with this in mind, I’ve decided to have a go at inventing a few myself, using characters from famous books to help me along the way. Feel free to have a go yourself, here’s my list, in descending order of my favourites:

10)  Bella from Twilight                             Little Miss Moody

9)    Peter Pan                                                Mr Immature

8)    Grandpa Joe                                           Mr Indolent

(Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

7)    Colin (The Secret Garden)                Mr Hypochondriac

6)   Bill Sykes (Oliver Twist)                     Mr Psychotic

5)    Katniss (The Hunger Games)           Little Miss Very Very Unlucky

4)    Piggy (Lord of the Flies)                     Mr Victim

3)   Christian Grey                                         Mr Stalker

(50 Shades of Grey)

2)   Tess of the d’Ubervilles                       Little Miss Naive

1)   Alice in Wonderland                              Little Miss Junkie


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Books I wish I’d never read

Although reading is unarguably one of the greatest pastimes in the world, we’ve all had books that, given half the chance we would go back in time and stop ourselves from reading, perhaps because they were a  waste of time, or maybe they have haunted us ever since. Here in reverse order of biggest mistake, are the top six reads that I regret:


6) The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner:

For some reason I persevered with this series way longer than I should have and managed to get half through book 3 before I finally gave up. Perhaps I’m simply too old for this YA story-line, whatever the reason  I just didn’t click with it and found the constant lurching from one adrenaline filled disaster to the next frankly exhausting. A little too similar to the Hunger Games for my liking too, I definitely preferred the films.

5)Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews                                                              

At the time of reading (aged 12 or 13)  I really enjoyed this book, but then went on to read more Virginia Andrews and looking back realise now that they weren’t at all suitable for a kid of my age. I don’t think my Mum could have known about the story-lines involving incest and rape that I was happily sitting in a corner of the living room reading but hey ho, none of it seems to have scarred me.


4) Paradise Lost by John Milton

Whoooooosh, I’m not ashamed to admit that this one went right over my head! I didn’t understand ANY of it when I read it for A-level English and though I’d say I ought to give it another try now I’m actually scared that my brain might melt. Wikipedia describes it as ” An epic poem in blank verse by the 17th century poet, John Milton. The first version, published in 1667 consisted of ten books with over ten thousand lines of verse.” Nuff said.


3)Any Jack Reacher novel by Lee Childs straight after I’ve read another one.

This is not to say I don’t like Child’s stories about hunky good guy Jack Reacher, I do actually really enjoy them, it’s just that I overdosed on too many of them one after another and put my self off reading any for a while. I’ve done exactly the same with cheese and pesto sandwiches.


2)The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson

Now I know that all kids books can’t be about fairies granting wishes and so on but if you’ve never read this believe me when I say, this book is HARSH. I came to read it with my (admittedly sensitive) younger daughter after having watched the Disney film and man, were we in for a shock! Not to spoil things but basically Ariel after an already traumatic love affair ends up with the choice of killing her true love so that she can turn back into a mermaid or face dying with the rising of the sun. Cheerful stuff or what? To be fair I should have known what we were in for after reading The Snow Queen. On the plus side, the illustrations in the copy we read were beautiful. Perhaps a better read for older children who dislike fish?


1) A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer

I must admit that this is another book on my list that I haven’t read to the end because, to put it quite simply I couldn’t face it. I have in the past managed to finish “We need to talk about Kevin” and that was horrendous enough, actually I wish I hadn’t read that either but this book is all the more heartbreaking because I know that it’s a true story. Obviously burying our heads in the sand doesn’t help any child in an abusive situation and if Pelzer’s book does anything to help then who am I to knock it, but I just haven’t the heart to read it.


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cell 2

Cell by Stephen King

In a    :

Now I’d gone a pretty long time without reading any Stephen King until having run out of books recently I reread an old favourite of mine and realised anew why I loved his stories so much. And once again, Cell doesn’t disappoint. The basic premise is that a signal, (The Pulse) is sent out simultaneously over the populations’ cell phones so that anyone using theirs at the time loses their mind and tries to kill either themselves or the people around them. Obviously those not infected then reach for their cells to contact the emergency services or loved ones and end up becoming affected themselves. The story follows protagonist, Clayton Riddell, a man who doesn’t own a cell phone, as he tries to survive  the now zombie like population, find his son and ex-wife and band together with the few remaining survivors. What really complicates matters as the story unfolds is that the cell victims gradually evolve from unfocused savages to co-operating “flocks” who, it turns out want to rid their world of any remaining normals.



Number of pages:


Interesting Fact:

A charity auction was held by Ebay, the winner of which, one Pam Alexander, won a role in the novel. Ms Alexander passed the honor onto her brother, Ray Huizenga who, in the story survived “The Pulse” but later died helping to kill one of the flocks.

Been  made into a film?

Yep, here’s the link :

What I like about the book:

As always Kings’ descriptions are so flowing and consuming that you are literally right there in the story alongside Riddell, watching all the horror unfold. The pace is just right all the way through, the action sporadic enough to keep you on the edge of your seat but the descriptions and interactions between the characters  in depth enough to make you really care about them.

And dislike:

The gore. I know I know, it’s Stephen King and that’s just the way he rolls. In fact I’m pretty sure the book wouldn’t work without all the incredibly graphic violence but I can’t help being squeamish.

Final Thoughts:

If you like/love Stephen King, you’ll enjoy this book. Similar to some of his other novels, (The Stand spring to mind), it’s a keeper nonetheless. If you’ve never read Stephen King before this is a good place to start, it’s action packed, fast paced and absorbing but be warned it’s not for the faint of heart.

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