17 November 2014

Most influential authors/books/poems/plays...

For last Wednesdays' meeting we each were to bring a list of 5 books or a combination of books and significant authors which we feel have importance; could be ones you come back to repeatedly or stand out for you for any reason. It could be anything fiction, non - fiction, poetry, children's books, anything at all!

I tried to keep up as much as possible, and have missed most authors, but its better than nothing.  So in no particular order:
  • Maus
  • Persopolis
  • The three musketeers
  • Once in future king (which is on radio 4 right now)
  • The left hand of darkness
  • Famous five
  • If by Rudyard kipling (poem)
  • The kite runner
  • The sense of an ending
  • 50 shades of grey
  • Ricky ticky tavi by Rudyard Kipling
  • The railway man
  • Wild swans
  • Touching the void
  • Scotts last expedition
  • Tender is the night
  • Jude the obscure
  • Jane Eyre
  • Emily Dickinson collected poems
  • Taking off Emily Dickinson clothes
  • The personal history of Rachel Dupree
  • The promise
  • The golden fleece
  • Black beauty
  • Arthur C. Clarke
  • The taxidermist daughter
  • The fire people
  • One day
  • Not without my daughter
  • Alice in wonderland/through the looking glass
  • The book of nonsense
  • Children's garden of verse
  • Penguin poets book 10 - Liverpool poets
  • Cosmos
  • Issac asimov
  • Sons and lovers /Kangaroo
  • Anna Kerririna
  • Middlemarch
  • Tam o Shanter by Rabbie Burns
  • Misery
  • The lady in the van
  • Border country
  • Stones in his pocket - Murray Jones (play)
  • Janet and John/ Spot the dog
  • Agatha Christie
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Merchants of Venice
  • In pale battalion - Robert goddard
  • Mad dogs and Englishmen
  • Til death us do part
  • Cry of the curfew Kathy farmer
  • Delia Smith complete cookery course
  • Harry potter (series)
  • My sisters keeper

Quite a list, eh? I've had to try and keep the rest of the blog post short to fit it all in!  If you have read any of these and want to add your thoughts pop them in the comments below.

Our last meeting of the year will be held on Wednesday 3rd December at 7pm in Builth Wells Library. As its December we will have some party nibbles and be talking about our favourite books of the year as well as a talk about science fiction by our very own Rev. Neil Hook.  If you haven't been before this is a great meeting to start with and get to know all our friendly faces.

Hope to see you there...hands off the mince pies though, theyre mine!

08 October 2014

Sorry, no joke here

The title is my way of apologising for not updating the blog since July.  I have a list of excuses but the main one being I was off having a baby...good excuse I reckon!

Anyway back to why we are here.  I've unfortunately missed the past two meetings but can tell you that 12 Years a Slave had a luke warm reception and generally the group thought it was ok but were surprised by the hype around both the book and the film.  I'd love to hear from anyone as to wether the book or the film was better. Both the book and DVD are available fromn the library and you can also download the ebook version from the Wales ebook service for free here.

The second book discussed was The Catcher in the Rye which was a re-read for some group members.  This was our choice of a classic for this year and the views quite polarised between those who liked the book and those who did not. It's always worthwhile to have something we don't all agree on, makes it a more interesting and lively session.

A big welcome to Ann - Marie who has joined the group. *waves

After discussion, we decided to reschedule November's meeting from the 5th to the 12th, due to it being Bonfire Night, with all the commitments people will have towards children and care of animals.

To recap what is intended for that meeting:
Each to bring a list of 5 books or a combination of books and significant authors which you feel have importance for you; could be ones you come back to repeatedly or stand out for you for any reason (if there is one particular book or author you really dislike, do include!).
Fiction, non - fiction, poetry, children's books -------any genre you like.
Everyone will be asked to briefly describe the item and give reasons for the choice; we want to make sure everyone has opportunity to contribute at least one from their list.
It might be as well to bring paper and pen; someone else's title or author might spark your interest!
Until next time, happy reading :)

15 July 2014

Library Service Consultation 2014 : A Sustainable Library Service for Powys

The library service is undergoing a review of its branch services and would like you to review and comment on its proposals. If you click on the link below (or visit the Powys County Council website) it will take you to the page where you will find the main proposals for consideration - you have a chance to comment on those proposals and even make further suggestions on how you feel the library services should become.

Library Service Consultation 2014

04 July 2014

The Somme Stations by Andrew Martin

At our last meeting we discussed The Somme Stations by Andrew Martin, we also welcomed our newest member to the group David (*waves enthusiastically).  As it was quite a sombre subject I decided not to do my usual "comedy" pun but fear not they will be back worse better than ever soon.

On the first day of the Somme enlisted railwayman Jim Stringer lies trapped in a shell hole, smoking cigarette after cigarette under the bullets and the blazing sun. He calculates his chances of survival - even before they departed for France, a member of Jim's unit had been found dead.

During the stand-off that follows, Jim and his comrades must operate by night the vitally important trains carrying munitions to the Front, through a ghostly landscape of shattered trees where high explosive and shrapnel shells rain down. Close co-operation and trust are vital. Yet proof piles up of an enemy within, and as a ferocious military policeman pursues his investigation into the original killing, the finger of accusation begins to point towards Jim himself . . .[From Amazon UK]

Although seventh in a series this book reads very well as a stand alone story however the group felt that reading previous titles in the series would have helped give some detail and depth to the main character.  This was a problem throughout in that although the majority of the group enjoyed the story we felt overall it was lacking in terms of depth of the characters and any great detail.  We also found the ending and tying up of the mystery to be very hurried.

Where this book really stands out is the description of the war, the battle, the railways in fact anywhere where the author has based the story on fact and used information from historical documents.  That's not to say it wasn't a good book it just needed a lot more detail and to be double the size it was for their to be any substance.

There is a fantastic podcast from the Faber and Faber (the publisher) website available here which includes an interview with the author, well worth a listen!

We also had a lengthy discussion about the War(s) including a discussion about how Germany marks the dates, thank you to Jan for pointing out this article from the BBC Website.  Of course if you want to know more Builth library has a great deal of resources both in print and online, check them out.

And so from a quite serious read to a very summery read, just in time for everyone's holibobs, next month we will be discussing A Cottage by the Sea by Carole Mathews...

Grace has been best friends with Ella and Flick forever. The late-night chats, shared heartaches and good times have created a bond that has stood the test of time.  When Ella invites them to stay for a week in her cottage in South Wales, Grace jumps at the chance to see her old friends. She also hopes that the change of scenery will help her reconnect with her distant husband.  Then Flick arrives; loveable, bubbly, incorrigible Flick, accompanied by the handsome and charming Noah. 
This is going to be one week which will change all their lives forever...

Now fair warning the library catalogue may be down for a bit as the library swaps over to a new computer system but there are plenty of copies available.  Best bet is to pop your head in and ask Sue/Jenny for some help tracking one down.

See you next time, 7pm Wednesday 6th August, Builth Wells Library, High St, Builth Wells :)

09 June 2014


To add to our social media arsenal I've set up the group on Goodreads

Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Their mission is to help people find and share books they love. Goodreads launched in January 2007.

A few things you can do on Goodreads
  • See which books your friends are reading.
  • Track the books you're reading, have read, and want to read.
  • Check out your personalized book recommendations. Our recommendation engine analyzes 20 billion data points to give suggestions tailored to your literary tastes.
  • Find out if a book is a good fit for you from our community’s reviews. 
So, now we have a:

And of course you can join us first Wednesday of every month at Builth Wells Library, High St, Builth Wells, Powys.

No excuses for not joining in now peeps!

Why do mummies not tell secrets?

They keep everything under wraps :-D 

This week I'm writing up the groups review of The Visitors by Sally Beauman, the reason for the terrible joke becomes apparent in paragraph 2.

Under the tablecloth, Frances's hand reached for mine and clasped it. I knew what it meant, that clasp and the mischievous grateful glance that accompanied it: it meant I was thanked, that there were secrets here. I could accept that. I too had secrets - who doesn't?

Sent abroad to Egypt in 1922 to recover from the typhoid that killed her mother, eleven-year-old Lucy is caught up in the intrigue and excitement that surrounds the obsessive hunt for Tutankhamun's tomb. As she struggles to comprehend an adult world in which those closest to her are often cold and unpredictable, Lucy longs for a friend she can love. When she meets Frances, the daughter of an American archaeologist, her life is transformed. As the two girls spy on the grown-ups and try to understand the truth behind their evasions, a lifelong bond is formed.
Haunted by the ghosts of her past, the mistakes she made and the secrets she kept, Lucy disinters her past, trying to make sense of what happened all those years ago in Cairo and the Valley of the Kings. And for the first time in her life, she comes to terms with what happened after Egypt, when Frances needed Lucy most.

About Sally Beauman:
Sally Kinsey-Miles was born on 25 July 1944 in Devon, England, UK. She graduated from Girton College, Cambridge (MA in English Literature). She married Christopher Beauman an economist. After graduating, she moved with her husband to the USA, where she lived for three years.  She began her career as a journalist in America, joining the staff of the newly launched New York magazine, of which she became associate editor, and continued to write for it after her return to England. 

Interviewed Alan Howard for the Telegraph Magazine in 1970.  The following year they met again, and the rest is history. After a long partnership Sally and Alan married in 2004. She has one son, James, and one grandchild.

Sally has had a distinguished career as a journalist and critic, she also wrote nine Mills & Boon romances under the pseudonym Vanessa James, before publishing her block-buster novel Destiny in 1987 under her real name.  She is the author of six previous novels, including the acclaimed Rebecca's Tale.
The review...
Normally as a group its quite difficult to summarise all the views and opinions they're normally so varying but in this case it has been quite straightforward.  Generally we found the book to be ok but not particularly exciting with nobody coming down hard on either side of really good or really bad. 
The characters were well drawn however we felt a lot of threads were left not pulling together stories and you get invested in some characters only for them, their story, to fizzle out without much explanation.  We didn't feel the children were believable in that they were attending adult dinner parties and afternoon teas in a time when they were seen and not heard.  Which in turn made the character of Lucy difficult to believable as their was no discernible voice between her younger and older self.
The story itself was ok however we felt that it was only given strength because of the real events and real characters involved, if it was entirely fictional it would have been very weak.  Reflecting the amount of loose threads throughout the story it could be generally quite wordy and descriptive in some areas and only a few lines about a major event in others.  We felt this made it a big book without much substance.
Overall we gave the book a rating of 2.5/3 out of 5, generally ok but we wouldn't recommend it to anyone and would suggest reading a non fiction title instead.

Next month we're reviewing The Somme Stations by Andrew Martin, see you 7pm Wednesday 2nd July or post your reviews/comments below :)

08 May 2014

Book list and new members

We've had to have a bit of a change around to the book list this year, so for those that haven't made the meetings it now goes like this:

June 4th: "The Visitors" by Sally Beauman
July 2nd:  "The Somme Stations" by Andrew Martin
August 6th: "A Cottage by the Sea" by Carole Matthews
September 3rd: "12 Years a Slave" by Solomon Northup
October 1st: ?
November 5th: "The Catcher in the Rye" by J D Salinger
December 3rd: Buffet and chat about our favourite/worst reads of the year, also a talk from Father Neil

We also have three, yes three, new members.  So a big hi, hello and howdy to Jane, Nicola and Father Neil (over enthusiastic waving commences).

AND (I know, its all go!) a big thank you from me to the group.  Last night they presented me with a gift voucher, (which I've promptly spent), to say thanks for getting them freebies books from The Reading Agency and keeping up with the blog.  I have to say its easy to do something for a group of wonderful people and something you enjoy doing but its very nice to be appreciated, so a big thank you from me right back to you all.

That's definitely it for now folks, see you soon :)

It's an alien invasion!

Sorry if the title of today's post panicked you, an introduction to sci-fi (more on that later) and I've gone all H.G Wells!

If you haven't guessed this post is about our discussion of Stephanie Meyers 'The Host.'  Anne was leading on last nights discussion and gave an introduction to the author and synopsis of the book...
Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that takes over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.

Wanderer, the invading ‘soul’ who has been given Melanie’s body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves - Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she’s never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love. [from Amazon UK]

From Anne's description of the author we found out that Stephanie Meyer is a mormon and the group felt that those beliefs are echoed in her books, although not preachy certainly the same sort of morality applies in her stories.

We had a good discussion around this book with viewpoints split across the board.

Our main debate was around the judgements made throughout the book, were the 'souls' right to judge earth en masse? Did they make it a better place?  How did the humans judge the souls for making it better - or good, should that be?  How do humans judge each other, is it personality, looks, more or a combination? 

We then had a discussion about aspects of the film versus aspects of the book and although views were split on the story overall we felt that the book was better than the film (for those that watched it).  The book, although lengthy at over 600 pages in paperback, has a lot more detail and character development where the film skims over a lot.  Although a lengthy title those that read the book found it easy to read and enjoyed having short chapters.

Interestingly we all found it very difficult to get into and found out from Anne that Stephanie Meyer wrote the beginning last and we did think it was quite noticeable, like she was trying to rush an introduction to the proper story rather than lead us into a tale.

Now, at the start of this post I mentioned an introduction to sci-fi as our discussions last night were also about is this a Young Adult book?  Sci-Fi? Sci-fantasy? Or something else?  Some argued that as it contained aliens then it was sci-fi but our definition of sci-fi is that it has to have a detailed description of the technology used, not just a mentioned of aliens.  This led to a discussion of the genre as a whole and we decided to put it on the Science Fantasy shelf.

If you would like to read more about science fiction (and have a look at other ebooks) Jan has suggested some good sites for short stories and more.

[Science Fiction stories and novellas old and new. Various formats – need to check compatibility with technology used to read]

[short stories: horror/supernatural]

[free books to download]
[free downloads crime and mystery]
[free downloads]
[older books out of copyright free downloads]
[short stories including children’s & non-fiction]
[old to present day]

I feel I should congratulate you for getting to the end of a very long post...well done! Before I go details of our next read. They finally arrived so we have a freebie this month from The Reading Agency which is Sally Beauman 'The Visitors'.  Get reading for our next discussion on Wednesday 4th June, Builth Wells Library, 7pm.

See you then :)

12 April 2014

No visitors!

Their is good reason for today's (very) late blog post and the title gives it away. We were expecting delivery of The Visitors from The Reading Agency but they haven't arrived so after waiting it was decided to carry on with the next months read which is The Host by Stephanie Meyer.

So throughout April we're reading the Host and will be discussing it at our next meeting Wednesday 7th May at 7pm.

I unfortunately missed the last meeting so my "review" of last months read, Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh, is sketchy at best. My sources (thanks Carrie) told me the majority of the group enjoyed it, a good humoured satire which gave everyone a good chuckle. The group felt that although a. Older title many of the issues covered are still relevant today.  As always their were a few of us, myself included, who just didn't enjoy it BUT I do think that's because satire isn't our thing. So if you enjoy a good satire then it's the book for you. 

Enjoy this months read, apologies for being even later than usual with this months post, and I'll see you in May :)

11 March 2014

Going, going, gone!

Ok so I'm a little late with this months blog post, I beg your apologies, but sadly their isn't much to report back to you dear reader.  We reviewed our previous read of 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn and I have to say it wasn't very popular.  Personally I thought it was ok but this blog is for the reading group and it didn't go down to well with the group as a whole.  

Several members didn't enjoy it as it was written in the first person and we all agreed it had a very weak ending.  For a title that has won several prizes and is very popular we were surprised at just how far fetched the story was.  We also found it to be quite wordy, with a lot of description that wasn't necessary.

The good news was that we had nearly a full turn out last Wednesday, missing just one member, and we welcomed our newest member Jo (waves enthusiastically).  Because of this we were able to agree our forthcoming reads FOR THE YEAR. How organised is that! So if you want to read along with us this year and get annoyed waiting for me to type up a blog post with details of our next read (I'll even apologise again, ok), here ya go:
(FYI the date given is the date we will be reviewing that title, so for example throughout March we will read Decline and Fall then review it on April 2nd, simples).
April 2nd:    "Decline and Fall"   by Evelyn Waugh 
May 7th:     "The Red House"   by Mark Haddon
June 4th:     "The Host"    by Stephanie Meyer
July 2nd:      "A Cottage by the Sea"   by Carole Matthews
August 6th:    "The Somme Stations"   by Andrew Martin
September 3rd:  "12 Years a Slave"   by Solomon Northup    
October 1st:    A novel by  Janet Evanovich  
NB Sue is going to investigate titles and copy numbers so will get back to us on that.  
November 5th:   "The Catcher in the Rye"   by J D Salinger
December 3rd:      Buffet and chat about our favourite/worst reads of the year

We even managed to pick reading group members to lead discussions...I think we're turning into a proper grown-up reading group here, what do you think?  Now I'm not one to try and bribe you along to one of our meetings but their was talk about a possibility of having tea and maybe even a biscuit at forthcoming meetings for a 50p fee.  
So you have the reads, either give us your comments below or come along to a meeting and for 50p you will get a cup of tea, biscuits and a good old natter about books with a very organised (snort) reading group :)

06 February 2014

A small review, of the small book 'The Small Hand'

Hello again, yesterday seen the first meeting of the Builth Wells Reading Group since December and we were all keen to get out our thoughts on our January read 'The Small Hand' by Susan Hill.  OK keen maybe isn't the correct word as it actually had quite a lukewarm reception.  As horror stories go this one wasn't particularly scary...in fact, not at all...but we did think it had the right spooky atmosphere.  Unfortunately that was accompanied by a quite linear, predictable and almost dull story.  The group aren't generally horror fans but even this didn't phase them (I did mention Radio 4 are doing a two part dramatisation of the exorcist but apparently that is the complete other end of the scale!).  Several of the group weren't keen on the first person style writing although we did discuss it would be hard to do a ghost story in any other way.

One of the group went on to read another short ghost story by Susan Hill called Dolly and said that was much scarier so that's what my plans are for the weekend...if I'm feeling brave!

So on to our next read which is staying with the dark but a bit more thriller than horror and we're reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (I have it from good authority its pronounced G-illian and not J-illian). 

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick Dunne’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick Dunne isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but hearing from Amy through flashbacks in her diary reveal the perky perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister Margo at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was left in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

As usual feel free to leave your comments below or find us on Facebook as Builth Wells Reading Group otherwise we hope to see you at our next meeting Wednesday 5th March at 7pm, Builth Wells library.

10 January 2014

Happy new read...

...see what I did there? Yes, yes the puns haven't got any better I'm afraid.

Happy new year to all our blog followers from everyone in the Builth Wells Reading Group.

The eagle eyed among you will have noticed we didn't set a read for over Christmas, we thought we all might be too busy, so we have set a short read to be discussed at our next meeting on Wednesday 5th February.

 Our first read for 2014 is *drum roll* Susan Hill - The Small Hand 

Returning home from a visit to a client late one summer’s evening, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow takes a wrong turning and stumbles across the derelict old White House. Compelled by curiosity, he approaches the door, and, standing before the entrance feels the unmistakable sensation of a small hand creeping into his own, ‘as if a child had taken hold of it’. - See more at: http://www.susanhill.org.uk/small-hand-0#sthash.LyKX5wDn.dpuf
Late one summer evening, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow is returning from a client visit when he takes a wrong turn. He stumbles across a derelict Edwardian house, and compelled by curiosity, approaches the door. Standing before the entrance, he feels the unmistakable sensation of a small cold hand creeping into his own, 'as if a child had taken hold of it'. At first he is merely puzzled by the odd incident but then begins to suffer attacks of fear and panic, and is visited by nightmares. He is determined to learn more 'about the house and its once-magnificent, now overgrown garden but when he does so, he receives further, increasingly sinister, visits from the small hand.

We thought a spooky read for these cold, blustery, dark and spooky wintery nights was the way to go but we do recommend you read it with the lights on...otherwise it will be difficult to read.

Anyway you will also have noticed I'm a little late in posting this but hopefully you should be able to read it before our next meeting as its only a short book of around 208 pages.

Hope to see you at our next meeting the usual place of Builth Wells Library, 7pm, Wednesday 5th February.

Returning home from a visit to a client late one summer’s evening, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow takes a wrong turning and stumbles across the derelict old White House. Compelled by curiosity, he approaches the door, and, standing before the entrance feels the unmistakable sensation of a small hand creeping into his own, ‘as if a child had taken hold of it’. - See more at: http://www.susanhill.org.uk/small-hand-0#sthash.LyKX5wDn.dpuf
Returning home from a visit to a client late one summer’s evening, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow takes a wrong turning and stumbles across the derelict old White House. Compelled by curiosity, he approaches the door, and, standing before the entrance feels the unmistakable sensation of a small hand creeping into his own, ‘as if a child had taken hold of it’. - See more at: http://www.susanhill.org.uk/small-hand-0#sthash.LyKX5wDn.dpuf