Book Review: Gone

gone

Gone is a heartfelt memoir where Min Kym describes her life as a childhood prodigy from the early age of six.  Her first violin was tiny, harsh, factory-made and her first piece was “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.” With each successive instrument, increasing in size and importance, she mastered her technique and expanded her repertoire. And finally at the age of 21 she met ‘the one’ a rare 1696 Stradivarius violin. Her career began to soar.

Then, in a London train cafe, her violin was stolen. She fell into a deep depression becoming unable to function or play. She lost herself, her soulmate and felt her life stopped having any meaning. This is a transfixing story about loss of identity and how Min breaks through and rediscovers her true self.

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Filed under Biography, Book Review, books, Music, non-fiction

Empowering the Future: Code Club Is Coming to Wembley Library

The world is run by technology — more so than ever before! From the moment we wake up until we go to bed — whether we are studying, working, driving, shopping, watching movies or simply making phone calls — there is a good chance we use software at every turn, sometimes without even realising it. In the technology-fueled world we’re living in, coding is quickly becoming an extremely necessary and sought-after skill.

 

In an effort to get more children involved and passionate about STEM, we’re very excited to announce that Code Club will be coming to Wembley Library, starting next month. For anyone who hasn’t heard of Code Club, it’s a truly fantastic nationwide network of free volunteer-led after-school coding clubs for 9- to 13-year-old children that provides their members with a fun and safe environment (all volunteers have DBS clearance) to learn programming and is currently reaching 85,000 children all over the UK. Not everyone will become a computer programmer, but it’s important for everyone to have an understanding of computing and programming in order to understand and shape our increasingly digital world. Coding strengthens problem solving and logical thinking and is useful for a range of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

 

What happens at Code Club?

Code Club is all about creativity and learning through exploring! Together with volunteers, your children will work through step-by-step guides that will help them create games, animations, websites, and much more. They’ll start off by using Scratch, a simple block programming language and an online community where children can program and share interactive media such as stories, games, and animations with people from all over the world. Scratch is designed and maintained by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. As children progress, they’ll move on to more complex HTML & CSS and Python projects, and later on Raspberry Pi, Sense HAT, Sonic Pi, and even drones. Club members learn at their own pace and are encouraged to use their newly acquired skills independently.

 

Who is Code Club for?

Code Club’s projects are designed for children aged 9-13. If your child is 5-8 years old and interested in learning to code, please do let us know. Based on the feedback, we might organise a one-off class where parents and young children can work together to create their own themed interactive stories and games by using an introductory programming language called ScratchJr.

 

Where and when is Code Club happening?

The club sessions will be held in Wembley Library (Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way). The first session will take place on November 2 and sessions will continue fortnightly, on Thursday afternoons at 4pm to 5pm.

 

As one of the Code Club volunteers, I’m thrilled to be a part of such an incredible educational journey and can’t wait to inspire the next generation to get excited about coding. …And did we mention that the coding club is absolutely free? Simply come along to explore, think creatively, and work collaboratively. Be inspired!

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Book Review: He – A Novel by John Connolly

Laurel and Hardy hats

Really looking forward to learning more about Stan and Ollie at your talk in December! https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/laurel-and-hardy-from-soup-to-nuts-tickets-37839787824

will / write and talk

Ollie: “Shut up and get this mess cleaned up. Do you know that my wife will be home at noon?”

Stan: “Say, what do you think I am, Cinderella? If I had any sense I’d walk out on you.”

Ollie: “Well, it’s a good thing you haven’t any sense.”

Stan: “It certainly is.”

As John Connolly magnificently recounts in his heartbreaking new novel “He”, Stan (above right) never did walk out on Ollie. At least not professionally. Many subsequent comic double acts ended in recrimination and alienation (see the sad fate of Abbott and Costello or Martin and Lewis), but Laurel and Hardy’s artistic and personal partnership endured, lasting three decades until Ollie’s death in 1957. What Connolly’s scrupulously researched and sensitive book has achieved is an explanation of perhaps how it did so. It’s a story of love, friendship and compromise between two very different performers.

The novel opens…

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Find out more about our code clubs

Brent Librarian Sarah Smith shares her thoughts on setting up code clubs in Brent Libraries.

Getting with the programme: Code Clubs and the digital challenge in Brent Libraries

Coding club 5

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Guest blog in advance of our talk next week!

In advance of my next round of illustrated talks in London I’ve been delving into the history of libraries. There are a few good modern books on the subject, but mainly from American authors. Lionel Casson’s “Libraries in the Ancient World” (Yale, 2001) is highly recommended. It’s enjoyable and remarkably concise. Casson covers the history […]

via Uncovering the Library — will / write and talk

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Book Review: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Behind Closed Doors is about the perfect couple Grace and Jack whom everyone envies, but when you delve deeper you begin to uncover the cracks beneath. Why does Grace never answer the phone when her friends call? How can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim? And why are there bars on the bedroom windows?

Behind Closed Doors is an emotionally gripping and thought-provoking thriller that will keep you at the edge of your seat.  Recommended for the not-faint hearted readers who want a fast paced and captivating read. An excellent chilling debut from B.A. Paris who I am intrigued to read more from.

This addictive read leaves you with a pervasive sense of uneasiness long after the last page is turned and with the lesson…. you never know what’s going on behind any closed door!

By Nazia

Behind Closed Doors

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Digitalback Books Present: Readings by Leone Ross, Rod Usher & Desiree Reynolds — Repeating Islands

Digitalback Books and Brent Libraries present “deliciously diverse stories from Africa and beyond” with Short Stories Readings by Leone Ross, Rod Usher, Desiree Reynolds. The event will take place on Tuesday, October 31, 2017, from 6:00 to 7:45pm (18:00-19:45 GMT) at The Library at Willesden Green, located at 95 High Road, London (United Kingdom). Description: […]

via Digitalback Books Present: Readings by Leone Ross, Rod Usher & Desiree Reynolds — Repeating Islands

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Book Review: Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe

I recently read The Silence Between Breaths By Cath Staincliffe. This book starts with Passengers boarding the 10.35 train from Manchester to London with ordinary people going about their ways. Amongst these people is Saheel, carrying a deadly rucksack….

This book was clever and harrowing and it tells us about Saheel’s family and what they too have to face with the knowledge of knowing the unthinkable.

It was an easy read but emotionally heartbreaking  and has been proven to be an excellent topic in any reading group.

Jagruti

Silence between breaths

 

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Book Review: Ten Days by Gillian Slovo

ten days

Overall I enjoyed this book but a felt it needed more work and didn’t reach its full potential.

The book is about some fictional London riots, it is inspired by the real riots in 2011.  We follow a cast of characters involved in various ways: a family who live on the estate at the heart of the riots, the chief of police, the ambitious Home Secretary and his scheming entourage.

Some of the characters are more engaging and convincing than others.  My favourite was Peter, the Home Secretary, had the whole book been about him and his plotting for power I think I would have enjoyed it much more.  The least convincing I found was Cathy, who lived on the Lovelace estate with her teenage daughter.  Her character felt very two dimensional and also not very entertaining, I mean you could say that a scheming politician is a two dimensional cliché – but at least they are fun to read!  Cathy is a sort of dull too-good-to-be-true do-gooder, she cares deeply about her community but seems like an outsider too, no real explanation is given as to why she is living in relative squalor on a estate that is about to be demolished.  The book doesn’t tell us her background but she doesn’t seem to originate from that estate which makes you ask “how did she end up there?”  It was interesting that I had a chance to go to an event where Gillian Slovo was talking about her work, one of the audience asked her what Cathy does for a living (the book mentions her coming and going from work) and Gillian said that she didn’t know, she hadn’t given her fictional character a job.  Now I think some novels go into too much detail about each character, leaving nothing to the reader’s imagination, so I don’t think we have to know every detail – but I think the author should know!  Perhaps because Gillian’s past work has often involved adapting other people’s words for the stage she hasn’t gotten into the habit of creating her own characters in detail, she says she doesn’t work that way – but I think she should try it, the novel was weaker because some of the characters felt half formed.

London riots

 

Apart from following Peter’s sordid tale my other favourite part of the novel was the build up to the riot.  It occurred during a boiling hot early summer and you can almost feel the heat coming off the pages as you read.  Slovo skilfully captures a tense overheated atmosphere of something about to erupt.  Unfortunately the scenes describing the actual riot didn’t live up to the early promise as they felt flat and unconvincing to me, I tried to picture what she was describing (considering I’ve never been in a riot of any kind!) but nothing realistic came into my mind – was this down to bad writing or my lack of imagination?  Not sure.

I felt the novel could have scored an extra point if it had just had another thorough edit or two.

3.5/5

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5 Great True Crime Books

Think True Crime is not for you?  It doesn’t have the best reputation for high quality work but please take another look.  There are some great reads out there under this genre and we have 5 recommendations to get you started.

  1. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – A true crime classic written in the 1960s.  Capote recounts the tale of the killing of four members of one family in a US farming community in 1959.   Highly regarded for it’s detail and quality of the writing it has also faced criticism for being closer to a novel based on fact that a strictly faithful account of events.
  2. The Cult of Violence by John Pearson – We move closer to home with John Pearson’s 2001 examination of the Kray twins and their South London crime spree.  The author met the twins in prison and interviewed them extensively so has real insight into their lives and crimes.  Because of his depth of knowledge gained directly from those involved this is arguably the definitive account of this famous crime duo.
  3. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale – Kate Summerscale goes all the way back to the 1860s in this absorbing story.  A nice twist putting at the center of her account, Mr Whicher, the Victorian policeman investigating the crime. Mr Whicher is called to a respectable middle class home where a child has been murdered apparently by an unknown assailant entering through an unfastened window, but Mr Whicher becomes convinced a member of the family is the murderer.  As well as offering the intriguing case the book is full of the tensions involved with a working class policeman daring to cast suspicion on a middle class family whom society regarded as his betters.
  4. Trials of Passion by Lisa Appignanesi – Rather than focusing on a single crime or criminal Lisa Appignanesi gives us a smorgasbord of turn of the 20th century crimes committed by women.  One thing the crimes have in common is that they have love or passion as the root motive (some though take strange paths away from the initial cause such as the Brighton woman who poisons innocent people indiscriminately with chocolate creams in order to camouflage her one targeted poisoning!)  Especially good in this book is the examination of how psychiatry began to play a part in crime detection and trials as doctors were called in to try to explain why the gentle sex would cause such destruction.
  5. Sexy Beasts by Wensley Carkson – In case all this murder is a bit much for you we’ve thrown in a book with the focus on robbery instead.  Sexy Beasts tells the story of the 2015 Hatton Garden diamond robbery.  Committed by a group of ageing criminals who intended to commit one last crime to set themselves up for a retirement in luxury…but things don’t quite go to plan!

So if you love history or crime novels or thrillers or whodunits then true crime might be worth a look next time you visit your library.

Zoe

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