Book Review: Moonraker by Ian Fleming

This is a fantastic Bond book.  A classic in every way (and my personal favourite).

The story begins with Bond in London tied up in boring paperwork (yes paperwork!  Something they don’t show you in the films.  But he is a civil servant as well as a spy).  As there is not much action going on M asked for his help in a personal matter.  An eminent man, war hero and top industrialist, Sir Hugo Drax, is suspected of cheating at cards in M’s posh London club.  The scandal it could cause!  Bond, the gambling expert, is asked to teach him a lesson at the card table to put him off cheating and avoid a scandal.  This relatively mundane beginning leads unexpectedly to action and drama and the whole city of London under threat.

After successfully deterring Drax from cheating ever again Bond dismissed the affair as the quirk of a brilliant man and agrees to go down to Drax’s factory in Kent to help out with a security matter.  Drax is developing the Moonraker, a powerful weapon that will ensure Britain’s military supremacy.  The project is so important that Bond is happy to let bygones be bygones and work side by side with Drax, but poor Bond doesn’t realise Drax’s true intentions or recognise what a dangerous enemy he has made…

bond_moonraker

I like this novel so much as we get to see so many different sides to Bond and his world.  One thing that is missing is the jet-setting as this is the only novel where he doesn’t leave the UK, all the action is in London and Dover (how glamourous.  Not!)  But there is ‘glamour’ provided by the mysterious (well, mysterious to a working class woman living in 2018) world of the old-fashioned gentleman’s club where careers are made and broken, fortunes made and lost at the bridge table and copious amounts of very expensive French Brandy consumed.  It is a world so well constructed by Fleming that I could almost smell the cigar smoke even while reading the novel on an Italian beach!

It is also a great novel for action.  Bond is completely black and blue by the end of the adventure as he gets into so many scrapes!  A cliff explodes on top of him, he’s beaten to a pulp while tied to a chair, run off the road in his Bentley and gets sprayed by a high pressure hose while hiding in a metal pipe!  The long car chases are particularly exciting.

As a contrast to this there are wonderful quiet moments.  Seeing Bond bored at his desk thinking about what he’s going to have for lunch makes you feel like you are being shown life behind the scenes of our hero.  The card game at the beginning is also fantastically detailed and tense.  You almost feel the same tension as when his life is at stake even though all he is risking at the card table is pride and an awful lot of money.

The other characters are top class.  Drax is a wonderfully villainous villain, who does the ‘classic’ of telling Bond his entire backstory and plan before leaving him to an elaborate death!  And Gala, the Bond girl, is the epitome of what a Bond girl should be: beautiful, clever, sexy, brave and attracted to but not intimidated by our hero.  She’s an undercover police officer and a full player in the action, certainly no damsel in distress.

5/5 – perfect if you are looking for action and adventure.

 

Zoe

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The Muse by Jessie Burton is the 2018 Cityread book

The Muse by Jessie Burton (Pan Macmillan) has been chosen as the book for Cityread London 2018. The title will be the centre of a month-long celebration of reading in the capital, starting on 30 April and running throughout May.  Cityread is a huge city-wide book group which aims to help Londoners explore and celebrate their city through its stories.

The Muse cover

The Muse opens in London 1967, where we meet Odelle Bastien, recently arrived from Trinidad and trying to make her way in a new country.  A new job at the Skelton Institute of Art brings a mysterious painting, and even more enigmatic colleague, into her life.  We are then transported to Spain, 1936, and meet Olive Schloss, and we begin to discover how the painting came into being, against the turbulent backdrop of Spain on the eve of civil war.

Taking Burton’s depictions of 1960s London and 1930s Spain as a starting point, a programme of events exploring The Muse’s themes of arrival, the creative process, art history and family secrets will take place in Brent Libraries (and indeed across London!) throughout May.  Highlights will include:

  • A life drawing art workshop on Tuesday 8 May
  • A Spanish cookery class on Thursday 10 May
  • A history talk about the Moors of Spain on Wednesday 16 May
  • An art history talk, Guernica and beyond, looking at the art of the Spanish Civil War on Tuesday 22 May

We will also be holding a competition for the best book review of The Muse with some exciting themed prizes!

For full details of our events look out for our special brochures, keep an eye on our online events lists or email libraries@brent.gov.uk

Jessie Burton

“I’m truly delighted that The Muse will be London’s Cityread for 2018. It’s a novel that celebrates the diversity, humour and spirit of Londoners – both those who were born here and those welcomed in to make it their home. It’s an honour to support our city’s libraries and to be reminded of their incomparable value, and I can’t wait for new readers to find my story of Odelle and Olive, and make it their own.”

Jessie Burton

 

Further details of all Cityread London activity can be found at the website:

www.cityread.london and at Facebook/CityreadLondon

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Book Review: Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

Missing persumed

The clue is in the title plus a serious crime has been committed. Great mix of characters reflecting UKs rich diversity. Author Susie Steiner really captures ordinary lives, the hustle and bustle of urban living and social welfare challenges.  The  protagonist does online dating and you really relate the all the uncertainty surrounding such attempts. Brent folk will enjoy recognisable locations including watering hole McGoverns. An engrossing crime mystery with  some unexpected outcomes. Looking forward to reading the next in the series following good reviews for this first crime novel which has garnered a lot of attention.  The follow up second crime novel Persons Unknown  was given Sunday Times book of the month for June 2017. Happy reading!

Sarah

 

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Book Review: Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser

almost missed you

Almost Missed You is about Violet and Finn, the couple that were ‘meant to be’. They met on a beach by chance and year’s later fate aligned and put them back into each other’s paths. Fast forward 3 years, happily married with their son Bear, one day Finn disappears taking Bear with him. What could possibly make Finn leave is the burning question?

Almost Missed You is a gripping debut by Jessica Strawser which takes readers through a journey of deceit, betrayal, tragedy and heartbreak. Peppered with lots of shocks and twists, it is not a book to be missed and leaves you with the question are some things really meant to be?

By Nazia

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Book Review: This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

WARNING: CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS

I really struggled with this book.  It’s not my usually thing, I picked it up on holiday as a This_Charming_Manprevious guest had left it in the apartment where we were staying.  I’d stupidly brought some philosophical tome to read which I just couldn’t get my head around so thought this book would be less challenging for holiday reading.  It certainly looked it from the colourful cover and from getting to know the main character Lola – a stylist from Dublin with a passionate love of designer labels who’d just been dumped by her more heavyweight politician boyfriend (Patrick D’Courcy, the charming man from the title).  She goes to the county to recover where she meets amusing and quirky characters and tries to lick her wounds.

After establishing this set up the narration then switches to other women who have also been close to the ‘charming man’.  Steadily it unfolds that he is actually a sadist who beats, rapes and mutilates the woman in his life.  It’s quite shocking and the tone pretty much remains in chicklit territory while dealing with these horrifying issues.  I think it is a brave move from the author but for me she just doesn’t quite pull it off, the switches between silly moments and serious I found a bit jarring.  But that does reflect life doesn’t it?  Just because you’ve been a victim of rape, assault or domestic violence doesn’t mean you’ll never laugh again, fall in love again or that you’ll cease to care about the content of Vogue magazine.  No, that isn’t my main criticism, I actually think the idea of tackling more serious issue in an accessible style is a very good idea (even if it didn’t entirely work for me).

The main reason I didn’t like it was the plot.  I felt let down by it on behalf of abused woman.  I’m not sure if I have misunderstood the author but it sent out a very strange message.  After we learn about the four different women who have been abused by Patrick their plots start to move together.  One of them, a journalist, finds out that Patrick is planning to leak a story to the press to destroy the career of a honourable female politician who she admires.  She gets the girls together and they threaten to go to the press with their stories unless he agrees to abandon his scheme, and he does agree and also apologies to them…and they celebrate!  He’s raped and tortured them and they are happy to have caused an inconvenience to his career? ! All the woman have been left with permanent physical and psychological scars from his treatment and yet are we to think this is the only justice they can expect?  I found this so disappointing.

The novel ends with Patrick’s career badly damaged and him going off to continue to abuse his latest victim…and yet the main characters seem pretty happy with the outcome.  I don’t think this holds up in a post Operation Yew Tree, Weinstein and #MeToo world – perhaps the world has moved on since the book was written about 10 years ago or maybe I am just naive.  I understand that abuse can damage people mentally as well as physically and maybe the women are so damaged that they don’t have the confidence to aim to bring him to real justice.  But then if that is the case the author deals with it very strangely with the girls whooping, laughing and celebrating their ‘victory’ with a night out in the pub.

Odd

1/5

Zoe

 

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Book Review: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

This book is set in Iceland and is a fictional account of real events about the last execution that happened in Iceland in June 1829. The story is about Agnes Magnusdottir and her maid Sigridur Sigga Gudmundsdottir, and Fridrik Sigurdsson, the son of a local farmer, who have been convicted of the brutal murders of Natan Ketilsson and a visiting neighbour. The two men had multiple stab wounds and Natans remote farmhouse was torched to cover the crime.

The book draws you in with the main character and in particular for me Agnes. She has been sentenced to death.  She has to stay with a Christian family District Officer Jon Jonsson, his cold and iron stoned wife Margret and their daughters Lauga and Steina while she awaits her execution date. It deals with the horrifying aspect of housing a convicted murderer, and how they isolate Agnes at first. Then Toti, a priest has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian  and tries to understand who she is.

Burial Rites has a very raw description of how remote and cold the winter scene are, and the setting of the farm in its rural and arctic conditions. The book is very atmospheric and one can imagine the work on the farm which was harsh and bleak with the shearing, lambing, milking and the slaughter of the animals.

I would recommend this book to anyone as it is different and the setting of the scenes in this book will leave a sense of history and questions and would be a good topic to  discuss.

Jagruti

Burial Rites

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Event: Meet Author Anne Corlett

Anne Corlett

Come and meet author Anne Corlett at Kilburn Library on Thursday 7 December at 6.30pm.

Anne Corlett is originally from the north-east, but sort of slid down the map, finishing up in the south-west where she now lives with her partner and three young sons. Before she became a full time writer, she spent 16 years working as a criminal lawyer in London and Bristol.

The idea for The Space Between the Stars came to her while on one of the regular family trips up to the Northumberland coast. While walking on Beadnell beach one evening, she had a sudden clear image of someone arriving on that spectacular stretch of coast after an impossibly long journey, and the story grew from there. At the time, she was working on another novel as part of the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, but she put that project to one side to write The Space Between the Stars.

Anne has had short fiction and non-fiction pieces published in various magazines, journals and anthologies, and she has won, or been shortlisted for, various literary awards.

Anne has lots to share about the writing process and about her life as an author.  Book now for this free event.

Space between the stars

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Book Review: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I decided to read a book from my childhood as it is a favourite for me and my best friend, and we always pretend we are the Mad Hatter and March Hare as it is a reflection on our lives.

Anyway, the story is about Alice who is sitting quietly on the riverbanks of the Thames and then sees a white rabbit who is talking to himself. Alice decides to follow him but then accidentally falls down the rabbit-hole!

She lands in a room with keys in it and sees a very tiny door that leads into a very pretty garden, but it is so small, she is unable to go through the door.small door

She then notices a small bottle that says “Drink me”, so she decides to drink it and then she becomes very small.

Unfortunately. she forgot to take the keys from the table before drinking the bottle and then realises she needs to grow big again. She then comes across a cake saying “eat me” and then when she does she becomes big. She then starts crying from all the confusion but as she is crying she shrinks again and is forced to swim in her own tears.

Eventually, she decides to go into the garden and comes across a cottage where she meets all the animals, such as Fish- Footman and delivers an invitation from the Queen to play croquet too a Frog -Footman. She comes across a cook who makes pepper soup and then sees the baby changing into a piglet.. She leaves them and meets the Cheshire cat who has a big wide grin.

She then meets Mad Hatter and March Hare who are having a tea party with sleeping Dormouse. She asks them questions but all she gets is riddles and to which nothing makes sense. Hence the phrase the Mad Hatters Tea Party.

This book is full of eccentricity and a dream world of nonsensical wonderland with the game of chesstea party and a chaotic game of chess that makes Alice into a Queen.

 

“Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!

How I wonder what you’re at!”

“Up above the world you fly,

Like a tea-tray in the sky.

Twinkle, twinkle____” ‘

 

March Hare.

 

By Jagruti

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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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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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