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Posts Tagged ‘family’

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The word ‘legend’ is bandied about too frequently these days – I’ve seen it used to describe reality tv stars, YouTube ‘stars’ and all manner of others which in truth it should not be used for – but sometimes the word is entirely fitting and Bruce Springsteen is one of those people truly deserving of the title. Whether you like his music or not, his songs are familiar to all, for their stories of blue-collar working class families and their struggles, from the anti-Vietnam protest song Born in the USA, to the Oscar winning Streets of Philadelphia from the groundbreaking 1993 Tom Hanks film about AIDS.

Bruce’s autobiography is a joy to read – not only does he discuss his own working class, blue collar background, and his rise to success, he is also amazingly candid about his struggles with depression and anxiety. He talks with obvious love and gratitude about his wife Patti Scialfa and their three children, and with open-ness about his troubled relationship with his father, who nonetheless he loved and loves very deeply.

His passion for his craft comes through on every page (no surprise to anyone who has listened to his music), as well as his enduring friendships with the many people who he has played with and alongside. I loved that he was starstruck, even at the height of his own success, when meeting the Rolling Stones!

Again – this will be no surprise for anyone who listens to Bruce’s lyrics – but he is a very talented author, likeable and amusing, and unapologetic…not that he has anything to be apologetic about. I always felt that Bruce was one of the good guys, and this book reinforces that view.

If you are a fan of Bruce Springsteen, or if you just really like reading autobiographies, I highly recommend this one.

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Joe Clarke, a married father-of-two wakes up in bed with Bella, the beautiful young intern at his office, and realises that he  must have been unfaithful to his wife Penny. This is disconcerting because (a) Joe is certainly not the unfaithful type, and (b) he can’t remember anything about his infidelity or how he ended in Bella’s bed. From this opening, the story goes on to relate the consequences of Joe’s infidelity, and the unravelling of his life. Added to all that is the reappearance of his horrible college ex-girlfriend – who died a few weeks earlier…

I have read and enjoyed Mike Gayle books before – in fact he is one of those authors that I would confidently buy a book by, because I know I am going to enjoy it. Except…while i can’t say I hated this one, it definitely was not up to his usual standard. It seemed to just go round in circles – Joe and Penny would come close to making up and then drift further apart, over and over again. I felt like telling them to make up their bloody minds one way or the other! I also felt that the ghost aspect of the story was a slant that didn’t quite work for me. The whole thing reminded me of the film Sliding Doors meets the tv show Life on Mars – but it wasn’t as cleverly done as either of those.

It was fairly undemanding – I listened to the audiobook and the narrator David Morley Hale, did do a good job. I also liked the three friends of Joe’s – Van Halen (yes really!), Steve and Paul and was far more interested in their interactions than the ones with his family (don’t get me wrong, I liked and understood Penny’s character, but their story just seemed to go round in circles).

I would read another Mike Gayle book, but only because I have enjoyed other novels by him. Had this been the first book I had tried by him, I wouldn’t pick up another one.

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This show opens with a voiceover warning people of a nervous disposition that platforms and white lycra are worn during this production. This somewhat sets the tone for the whole show – humour, colour, energy and of course some terrifically ABBA-esque costumes.

The storyline is simple enough – Sophie Sheridan and her mother Donna live in Greece. Sophie is getting married and wants to meet her father…the only problem is that she doesn’t know who her father is out of three potential candidates, so she invites all three without her mother’s knowledge. Naturally, chaos ensues as past memories are raked up. And when you throw together Donna’s best and oldest friends Rosie and Tanya, three men who have no idea why they have been invited to the wedding, and a host of young men and women, there is bound to be action, raunch and a little romance…

Accompanied by some of ABBA’s best known and loved songs – including Super Trouper, Take a Chance on Me, Lay All Your Love On Me, Money Money Money, Does Your Mother Know? and of course the title track – this is such a fantastically feel-good show that it did not surprise me one bit when there was a standing ovation at the end, with audience members dancing in the aisles.

Helen Hobson was great as Donna, and Gillian Hardie and Emma Clifford were wonderful as Rosie and Tanya respectively. In the performance I saw, Sophie was played by first understudy Blaise Colangelo, who was ideal for the part – so loveable and sweet. The three possible fathers were Sam played by Jon Boyden, Bill played by Christopher Hollis, and Harry played by Jamie Hogarth. Their three distinct characters were portrayed excellently.

I don’t see how anyone could fail to enjoy this show, and the beaming faces on the audience as they left the theatre were testament to what a wonderful time everyone had. If you get chance to see this production, do yourselves a favour and buy some tickets!

 

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Rachel and Jack met just a few months ago, but fell head over heels in love almost immediately, and are now expecting a baby. Then Rachel spots an email on Jack’s iPad, which causes her to question their relationship and slams home the fact that there is so much that they don’t know about each other and their past lives. She suspects that there is something bad in his history and goes on a hunt for the truth

As Rachel’s interest in the secret in Jack’s past turns to obsession, it becomes clear that she has a secret of her own, and both secrets could cause their fledgling relationship to crumble.

I really enjoyed this book. There is a dual storyline – the present day, and a year ago. In actual fact, not a lot actually happens in the present day storyline, which is largely concerned with Rachel’s search for the truth about Jack, and the toll it takes on their lives, while she also tries to come to terms with her own guilt about her history. For the reader, both Rachel’s history and Jack’s history are drip-fed throughout the book. If I’m honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought about the ending (no spoilers here), but I think it was probably the most realistic ending for the storyline that preceded it.

Overall, I think this was a well written book – it certainly kept me hooked throughout – and I would definitely be interested in reading more by this author.

 

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I like to try and read a Christmas themed book at Christmas time, and having previously enjoyed ‘Love, Nina’ by Nina Stibbe, I was really happy to get my hands on this. Essentially it is a collection of observations, memories and a few short stories all – obviously – based around a Christmas theme.

Stibbe discusses such things as how to cook a turkey without it being dry (she has chops instead!), the art of Christmas gift giving, spending Christmas with your parents despite being well into adulthood and more. Just as in Love, Nina, she is an engaging and amusing narrator and provided lots of smiles and giggles while I was reading this.

It’s lighthearted and undemanding – I read it over two days but only because I was stretching it out – and because those two days were Christmas Day and Boxing Day and we had places to be – I would think that it would be an easy book to polish off in one sitting.

I will be keeping this book and revisiting it at future Christmas times. I definitely recommend it.

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Several thousand asteroids hit the UK and Britain is decimated. In the fallout, Ed Hill is separation from him wife and two children and he knows that his only chance of survival is to span the 550 miles that divides them. But with cities in ruins and no transport, he will have to run the distance. Together with a small group of survivors, Ed sets out on his long journey, with no idea of whether or not they will be successful…

On paper this book ticked all the right boxes for me – it’s post apocalyptic, it’s a dystopian novel (one of my favourite genres) and it’s set in the UK. And in many ways, it is a good read. Certainly it’s pacey and exciting – the story has twists and turns and it ket me interested,,,but for all that, I never really felt able to lose myself in it. I think the main reason is that I was not able to connect to the characters. It’s narrated by Ed himself, a lazy husband, giving the minimum amount of effort to his marriage and the raising of his children. He loves his family but he can’t be bothered to put himself out in any way for them. Only when he is faced with losing them forever does he realise how much they really mean to him. The other characters on his journey are basically a bunch of stereotypes, who we never really get to know beyond surface level and for that reason I didn’t really care what happened to any of them.

I did enjoy reading about the people they met on their journey – some good, some bad, some helpful, others with evil intentions, and the resourcefulness that Ed and his companions had to summon up in order to get out of certain situations. Overall though, while I can’t say that I actively dislike the book, I can’t say that it ever really struck much of a chord with me.

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The Hartes and The Golds have lived next door to each other for years. The two couples are best friends, and their children – Christopher and Emily – grew up together, and eventually fell in love. Life is seemingly idyllic for the families, until the night where Emily is killed from a gunshot to the head, and Chris tells his parents that it was a suicide pact gone wrong. Neither family wants to believe this could have happened and both want to know the truth. But as the police investigation begins, both sets of parents have to question how well they really knew their children at all.

As is almost always the case with Jodi Picoult, this book is compelling reading, and held my interest throughout. There are two timelines – the one in the past which builds up the history of Chris and Emily’s relationship, and the one in the present day, which focuses on the police investigation and the discovery of what really happened that fateful night.

As it transpired, I actually found myself disliking both sets of parents and feeling more sympathy towards the Chris and Emily – Emily in particular, not only because she dies at the very start of the story, but also because she actually seemed the most likeable character of all. I did enjoy the character of Jordan McAfee, Chris’s attorney and his assistant Selena. I was not particularly able to warm to Chris but I had to remind myself that he was a privileged (read, spoiled) teenager, going through an incredibly tough process. There were a few things that jarred with me – Emily’s mother Melanie mistakenly believes at one point that her new neighbours are a gay couple and wonders what kind of neighbourhood she and her family have moved to. I’m not sure if this was meant to be a reflection upon the character of Melanie herself however, I also felt that Emily and Chris were almost pushed together because it was what their parents’ wanted, not necessarily what they themselves might have wanted.

Nonetheless, if you want a story that moves along at a good pace, despite alternate chapters set in different timelines, and one that that will keep you guessing as well as presenting the reader with a moral dilemma, then I would probably recommend this book. It’s not Picoult’s best (my own lowly opinion would rate that as the excellent Nineteen Minutes) but it’s still an absorbing story.

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