The world needs more readers. But we'll start with Nottingham first and work our way up.

Our lively, friendly reading group meets on a Tuesday at 7pm every month in the back room at Edin's bistro, Broad Street (opposite the Broadway cinema).

Sometimes we like the book of the month. Sometimes we hate it. Usually we end up ranting about completely random subjects.

Why not join us?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Night Rainbow by Claire King

I know I know, it's been a while since last we blogged. But we're here now. So to discuss this month's book, The Night Rainbow by Claire King. We'd been given copies to review by the lovely folk at The Reading Agency. Edin's was incredibly busy for some reason and we struggled to make ourselves heard but the consensus (apart from Steve who doesn't count as he was only present by email) was that this was a nice read, nothing too challenging, nothing too demanding. It varied between us as to who spotted the plot 'twist' earliest - some figured it out early, others (ok me) didn't see it coming.

The problem with all books narrated by children is that at some point the plot requires that they share some knowledge or insight that is really too sophisticated for them and this was the problem here. Some of us were bothered by this, others of us, knowing this was a common problem, were willing to let it slide. The narrator, Pea, was charming and once in a while she would let something slip that betrayed just how lonely she was. She just wanted a hug from her mum bless her. Who could begrudge her an adult's insight once in a while? (Steve, that's who) 

We also debated whether the portrayal of Pea's mother was too simplistic - depression can't always be reduced down to sleeping a lot. But again, for others this was academic. For me, the story was more about how a little girl coped with the loss of both her parents, one permanently, the other temporary but no less a loss. 

We were all wise to the fact that Claude wouldn't be as bad as Pea's neighbour thought he was. Did the author make this obvious on purpose or was she hoping for a little misdirection? We didn't know. 

The novel gave a strong sense of place, although that place may have been a little too idyllic to be realistic. We liked it anyway - the market scenes were excellent. 

In short, a pleasant if not challenging read. But it did give us a chance to find out what a night rainbow was.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 2013 - 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' by Arthur Conan Doyle

From the Casebook of Dr. John H. Watson.

I had called upon my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, on the morn of last Wednesday.  Mrs Hudson had warned me as I ascended the stairs up to his drawing room that he was in a dejected mood, and indeed, as I entered I heard him scratching an angry rendition of 'As Long As You Love Me' by Justin Bieber on his violin.
"What up, me Holmesie?" I asked him, extending my arm for our customary fistbump.  Holmes, however, declined, instead lowering his instrument with a weary sigh and fixing me with one of his steely expressions.
"You ask me, what is up," he retorted, "when you know full well the reasoning for my foul mood."
I sat down in an armchair and leaned back, trying to appear nonchalant.
"By Heavens, Holmes, I haven't the modicum of comprehension as to the nature of your dejection."
Holmes sat down too, steepling his fingers together as he studied me carefully, as one might study a hardening scab, measuring whether it is yet ripe for the plucking.
"If that were true, Watson, if that were true..." he murmured to himself, sadly.
"You're not still moping about that time I said that Benedict Cumberbatch had the face of an otter, are you?"
"No," he scowled, his face twisted in otter contempt.  "I am, of course, referring to you having gallivanted off to that infernal reading group last night."
"By Jove, Holmes, how the devil can you possibly have known about that?"
"It's simples, my pal, John.  The barely healed papercut on the fourth finger of your right hand indicates that you have been recently handling a book, whilst the angle and deepness of the cut would suggest a hasty flicking through pages, as though trying to eagerly find a reference for a quotation you wish to read out to others during a boistrous discussion.  The colouring of scuffmarks on your shoes could only have been made in two locations: either on the doorway to the Pope's bedchamber in the Vatican, or in the entranceway to Edin's café/restaurant on Broad Street in Nottingham's city centre, and as all flights to and from East Midlands Airport have been delayed due to the bad weather we have been experiencing it is obvious that you have not made any recent trip to Italy.  Also, you remember a wizened old man with a limp who was sat in the corner of the room, watching you intently throughout the course of the evening?"
"How could I forget that eccentric fellow!" I replied.  "The way his accent changed suddenly when he spoke to a waiter, from a refined, well spoken manner (much like yours, Holmes) to suddenly a very awkward, strange, Scottish falsetto.  Or the way he kept reattaching his eyebrows whenever they fell off.  Plus the fact that he insisted on wearing his deerstalker, even indoors.  A very strange choice of hat; the only other person I know who wears such a thing is you, Holmes!"
Sherlock Holmes smiled at me; a wry, knowing smile.
"If you had engaged your powers of observation more astutely, Watson, you would have deduced that that wizened old man was in fact, me!"
"F*** me in the eye, Holmes!  You really are a master of disguise!  But does this mean you overheard everything we spoke of that evening about 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' written by Sir Arthur Conan D- I mean, written by myself?"
"Why yes, Watson, it does."
"Meaning you must have heard the mixed response to the tales of your cases, where although many of us enjoyed them (sometimes from a sense of nostalgia), it was generally agreed that the mysteries were too convoluted with not enough clues for the reader to have a go at solving them, that the characterisation was severely lacking, and that - with a few notable exceptions - the stories felt rather repetitive?"
"Yes, this is all true."
"So that is why you're in bad humour this morning, Holmes!"
"Well, I am sorry.  Perhaps if we'd read one of the novels instead, we might have found it a bit more substantial and gotten more out of it?"
"That is certainly possible.  But we shall talk more of this another time, for right now I have an animal to secretly follow."
"An animal, Holmes?"
"A deer, to be precise.  Why do you think I wear this hat all the time?"
"I did wonder!  So who is this animal you stalk, Holmes?  What's her name?"
"Ella Mentory, my deer, Watson."
"That was tortured."
"I know."
Thus I left Sherlock Holmes to his misery, once again astounded by his incredible powers of observation, disguise, and deductive reasoning, and headed briskly home to begin reading the next book for the Nottingham Readers.  This one was a novel set in the far, far future, where rich people can afford private craft which let them travel amongst the stars, and depicted what befell a man who has the knowledge of all of past, present and future in the Universe.  I look forward greatly to discussing it with the others anon, hopefully this time away from the bitter and jealous eyes of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

End of case.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

December 2012: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Clank.  Clank.  Clank.

Be not afraid, mortal.  You shall soon be visited by three spirits.  One will tell you your your future...and one...something else.  I can't remember.  I think it'll calculate your BMI or something.  Ooh, these chains aren't half heavy.  Anyway, tara me duck.

Clank.  Clank.  Clank.

Woooo!  Behold, for I am the Ghost of Christmas Past!  Come with me, as we journey back to a cold, wintry night of the 18th of December, in the Year of Our Lord, Twenty Hundred and Twelve.  Heading down Broad Street in the City of Nottingham, we peer in the window of a small café restaurant called Edin's, a rather dark yet welcoming place where it's surprisingly difficult to order a hot chocolate.  Spy in the back room, a table full of people...  They seem to be talking whilst eating - a most disgraceful habit - and have copies of a book lying beside them.  But what the Dickens is it?  Ah yes...something old and somewhat festive, methinks.  Something so instantly familiar, yet so enjoyable to read and reread.  Something with a vividness to its prose which makes its familiar story seem fresh and exciting.  Something which whilst reading one finds oneself being unable to shake off the image of Kermit the Frog playing Bob Cratchitt.  A resounding success, it seems.  What fun!  What joy!  Plus the return of some old faces from a few months back, a year ago, and several years ago!  How appropriate!

Ah, but the image is fading...tis fading...tis fading...tis gone.  Farewell....  Woooo...



...iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII ooh 'ello.  Sorry about that, I was trying to be mysterious and spooky and silent, but that's not gonna work in a text medium.  Never mind.  I'm the Ghost of Christmases Yet To Come.  Not that I'm here to talk about Christmas, oh no sirree; that's far too far in the future.  Instead I'm gonna tell you what's gonna be going on in the next couple of months, and we'll take it from there.

So, basically, in January you all will be meeting on the 22nd to discuss another classic piece of Victoriana...'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!  He believed in fairies, y'know.  Idiot.  Anyway, it's a classic compendium of crime short stories which will hopefully be full of fun and japes.  Then, on the 19th of February, discussion shall centre on (don't be scared now) science fiction classic 'The Sirens of Titan' by Kurt Vonnegut.  Deep breaths.  It'll be fine, I promise.  And there'll be lots of celebrating, people being opinionated, and it's likely someone will smash a glass.

What?  You're thinking of not bothering to go...?!  The vision is changing...I see now a house full of despairing souls...a fire, turned to ash...a pair of tiny crutches in the corner, long unused...  It's not too late to change your mind, y'know!  What?  Oh, no, I don't understand the term 'emotional blackmail'.

We're all fading now.  If ghosts can fade.  I mean, we're already pretty faded, despite the Christmas pud. Anyhoo, we'll say a fond farewell and wish you all a Happy New Year!

With love,

The Spirits of Christmas Past, Christmas Future, and How Much Weight You've Put On Over Christmas.

Tuesday January 22nd - 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' by Arthur Conan Doyle

Tuesday February 19th - 'The Sirens of Titan' by Kurt Vonnegut

7pm Edin's (in the back room.  Best bring a flashlight.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October 2012 - Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel

Yesterday we had a good ol' chinwag about one of the few books written by Hilary Mantel which hasn't won the Booker prize: 'Beyond Black'.  In one of those rare occasions where we all generally agreed, we found the idea of the book interesting and the character of Alison the medium original, but felt it went on far too long, repeating itself instead of developing.  A shame, really.  My biggest bugbear was when she referenced the characters driving to Beeston and talks about the M1 and A52 joining at Junction 23 when surely she meant Junction 25.  That's presumably the sole reason it didn't end up on the Booker longlist.

Next month we'll be meeting to talk about 'The Conductor' by Sarah Quigley, set during the Siege of Leningrad and about a conductor's attempts to record the premiere of a Shostakovich symphony to be used to raise morals during the Nazi invasion.  I'm quite excited about it!  Fingers crossed it delivers.

Also, for December's meeting, we've decided to embrace the season and do 'A Christmas Carol'.  At least it's short.  (And you could get away with just watching the Muppet's version if need be.)

We'll be in Edin's as usual at 7pm!

November 20th - The Conductor by Sarah Quigley

December 18th - A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Monday, June 25, 2012

June 2012 - Snowdrops by AD Miller

Why, hallo there!

Big thanks to those who ignored last Tuesday's football and came to talk about dirty goings-on in Moscow.  Despite some confusion over Snowdrops turning out not to be written by everyone's favourite English novelist Andrew Miller but instead some other bloke with a suspiciously similar name, we still enjoyed the level of detail and description the imposter was able to instill about Moscow into his debut novel, even if overall the story wasn't quite as exciting or in-depth as we would have liked.

Coming up next month we have another thriller which is more firmly placed in the crime genre: The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø, and a favourite of various members of the group.

We're also coming up to the end of our selections, so if you have any ideas for titles we could do in the later half of the year, please get in touch!  This is a great opportunity for anyone who's not been enamoured with our choices in recent months to get a chance to steer the ship.  Perhaps there's a book you've always wanted to read but need the impetus to do so, or dare to suggest an old favourite you think others might like?  Either let me know, or suggest it yourself at the next meeting!

See you then.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 2012 - The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht

Hope you've been enjoying the fine weather! Personally I hate the sunshine as it means I have to close all the curtains so I can still see my computer screen.

Last month's reading group meeting saw us snubbing the sun in favour of the back room in Edin's where we discussed The Tiger's Wife.  I think generally we were in agreement that although many bits of it were wonderful, overall it seemed needlessly confusing and hard going. Personally I hated that the author was a year younger than me. (Boo, down with successful people younger than me. Boo!) I notice this year's Orange Prize winner (and, I guess, final one as Orange are dropping their sponsorship) was announced yesterday, Madeline Miller with her debut novel The Song of Achilles.  There's one for us to potentially do once the paperback comes out.

In June we're denying the summer months even more by doing Snowdrops by Andrew Miller.  See you there!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

April - Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical by Robert Shearman

So it has a long, unwieldy name which - upon hearing it - some people decided sounded pretentious, and others found it hard to track down a copy of the book because it wasn't released by a mainstream publisher, but...BUT...eventually we got to the point where people read Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical and realised it's a truly wonderful, funny, lovely collection of strange, dark and very witty stories.  And everybody seemed to love it.  I'm thrilled.

Next month we return to what I still cruelly refer to as a "3 for 2" novel with The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht.  It won the Orange Prize last year so must surely be worth a skim.  Surely?!

Tuesday May 22nd - The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht. Back room of Edin's Bistro, 7pm.