LBC Puffins choices for August and September

edited puffin

19th August

The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride #1)

by James Patterson


16th September

A Stitch In Time

by Penelope Lively


From the Vaults – The High Lord Review

A mate of mine dropped me an email last week letting me know that I had sent her reviews of the Black Magicians’s Trilogy way back in 2009.

These reviews actually predate the book club (I think) and will be posted under the email receipt date in a few weeks.

Despite every impulse within me, I won’t be editing these reviews at all, except for basic tidy up to follow the usual LBC review format.  I’ve even left in the infuriating oxford commas that I now avoid like the plague!!



BLURB (Amazon)

“You want to know the truth.”

Sonea has learned much since she was but a penniless urchin possessing an awesome untapped ability. She has earned the grudging respect of her fellow novices and a place in theMagicians’ Guild. But there is much she wishes she had never learned—what she witnessed, for example, in the underground chamber of the mysterious High Lord Akkarin . . . and the knowledge that the Guild is being observed closely by an ancient fearsome enemy.

Still, she dares not ignore the terrifying truths the High Lord would share with her, even though she fears it may be base trickery, a scheme to use her astonishing powers to accomplish his dark aims. For Sonea knows her future is in his hands—and that only in the shadows will she achieve true greatness . . . if she survives.

Emailed to my friend on 6th January 2009.

tbm 03

Wow O wow O wow…did this ever not end up in the place that I thought it was going to!!!The book that makes the trilogy – the best of all; the biggest of all and the finale.

At times, this was an entirely frustrating read. For one thing, just as the whole school thing skips forward a year and gets interesting; it’s mixed with the wanderings of a not-entirely aimless wizard intent on digging up the past, specifically Akkarin’s.
I mean the insights into why the High Lord is such a sod are really really interesting, and your mind keeps trying to figure out ways to piece the final pieces together. But they always come at the most pivotal moments within the main plot – and when you do get back to the primary story there is an entirely plausible reason why you are not right back at the action – grrrr frustrating!!And its a big book, even for me. I knew that I couldn’t read it in one go, and with work and everything…

Well I have to read it again. I did a lot of speed reading and missed vital details along the way (though we never do find out about the third gem…never gets answered…love it).This book does so much – and like I said, its a biggie, but a goodie – for me I found that it divided into thirds.

The first – Sonea IS learning more about the magicks and the High Lord.
The second – working in the dark.
the third…well, it is a fantasy novel – its the big reveal/fight/resolution.And romance.

But not in a ‘oh-god-a-woman-writing-sci-fi/fantasy’ way. It’s understated and all the more poignant, romantic and satisfying for being so (though I have a slight ick factor with the whole ‘he was her teacher’ thing). And the ending…unforgettable.

Mind you, I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive her (Trudi Canavan). I’m reading the first book of her next series, and if it ends in a way that upsets me again three days later…I’m moving onto more Disney style books :)

From the Vault

The Black Magician Trilogy

  1. The Magician’s Guild
  2. The Novice
  3. The High Lord

LBC 3 Reads – Date Change – PLEASE NOTE

Date:  *22nd of August 2015*
Time:  11am – 1pm
Address: Unit 2
Munro House,
Duke St,
Leeds LS9 8AG


Our Choice



lbc 3 01BLURB (from Amazon)

Maya Angelou’s seven volumes of autobiography are a testament to the talents and resilience of this extraordinary writer. Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a Black woman she has known discrimination and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration. In this first volume of her six books of autobiography, Maya Angelou beautifully evokes her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930s. She learns the power of the white folks at the other end of town and suffers the terrible trauma of rape by her mother’s lover.

‘I write about being a Black American woman, however, I am always talking about what it’s like to be a human being. This is how we are, what makes us laugh, and this is how we fall and how we somehow, amazingly, stand up again’ Maya Angelou

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from Amazon)

Dr Maya Angelou was one of the world’s most important writers and activists. Born 4 April 1928, she lived and chronicled an extraordinary life: rising from poverty, violence and racism, she became a renowned author, poet, playwright, civil rights’ activist – working with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King – and memoirist. She wrote and performed a poem, ‘On the Pulse of Morning’, for President Clinton on his inauguration; she was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama and was honoured by more than seventy universities throughout the world.

She first thrilled the world with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969). This was followed by six volumes of autobiography, the seventh and final volume, Mom & Me & Mom, published in 2013. She wrote three collections of essays; many volumes of poetry, including His Day is Done, a tribute to Nelson Mandela; and two cookbooks. She had a lifetime appointment as Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University of North Carolina. Dr Angelou died on 28 May 2014.

Date:  *14th of November 2015*
Time:  11am – 1pm
Address: Unit 2
Munro House,
Duke St,
Leeds LS9 8AG


Our Choice



lbc 3 02

BLURB (from Amazon)

On his third birthday Oskar decides to stop growing. Haunted by the deaths of his parents and wielding his tin drum Oskar recounts the events of his extraordinary life; from the long nightmare of the Nazi era to his anarchic adventures is post-war Germany

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from Amazon)

Günter Grass, born in Danzig in 1927, is Germany’s most celebrated contemporary writer. He is a creative artist of remarkable versatility: novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, graphic artist. Grass was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.

Breon Mitchell’s translations include works by Franz Kafka, Heinrich Boll, and many others. He is the recipient of several awards for literary translation, he is Professor of Germanic Literature at Indiana University, and Director of the Lilly Library.


From the Vaults – The Novice Review

A mate of mine dropped me an email last week letting me know that I had sent her reviews of the Black Magicians’s Trilogy way back in 2009.

These reviews actually predate the book club (I think) and will be posted under the email receipt date in a few weeks.

Despite every impulse within me, I won’t be editing these reviews at all, except for basic tidy up to follow the usual LBC review format.  I’ve even left in the infuriating oxford commas that I now avoid like the plague!!



BLURB (Amazon)

“Even if a magician’s powers surface of their own accord, he will soon be dead if he does not gain the knowledge of how to control them.”

Alone among all the novices in the Magicians’ Guild, only Sonea comes from lowly beginnings. Yet she has won powerful allies—including Lord Dannyl, newly promoted to Guild Ambassador. But Dannyl must now depart for the Elyne court, leaving Sonea at the mercy of the lies and malicious rumors her enemies are busy spreading . . . until the High Lord Akkarin steps in. The price of Akkarin’s support is dear, however, because Sonea, in turn, must protect his mysteries—and a secret that could lead a young novice mage deep into the darkness.

Meanwhile, Dannyl’s first order to resume High Lord Akkarin’s long-abandoned research into ancient magical knowledge is setting him on an extraordinary journey fraught with unanticipated peril—as he moves ever-closer to a future both wondrous . . . and terrible.

Emailed to my friend on 6th January 2009.

TMG 02

So, this was the book that I never intended to read.
The dreaded sequel…well not exactly dreaded – I did actually want to know what happened to everyone, and I had been a bit curious about the bigger picture, but in a ‘wait-for-the-tv-movie’ kind of way.The first thing that struck me was that the writing seemed so much more fluid than in the first book (I was later to learn that The Magician’s Guild had been the authors debut novel – honestly, all the pieces started to fall into place).

As the characters had grown, so too had the capacity of the plot to explore more mature elements and though while reading the book everything felt very natural and un-hurried; it was only afterwards that i realised how impressed i had been by how many different themes were intricately woven into the story.

However, I still felt like I was a bit beyond the whole bullying storyline that dominated the main plot. Again I was immersed in the larger scale story before I realised it, and I loved it! As a result, it seemed churlish to whine that too much time was spent on developing the characters!

So much was I enjoying the story that I didn’t bother to report back to the mate that had recommended the books in the first place and moved straight onto the third and final in the series appropriately excited for the finale!

From the Vault

The Black Magician Trilogy

  1. The Magician’s Guild
  2. The Novice
  3. The High Lord

Books ‘un’ picked

As always we have a list of books that were not selected, so if you’re looking for some suggestions, have a look here!

Book fall

These are un-selected book from a few different book clubs that got mixed up in my bag!

HOTEL HONOLULU – Paul Theroux x2


SMALL GODS – Terry Pratchett

BLACK DIAMONDS – Katherine Bailey






THE LIE – Helen Dunmore




MIDDLESEX – Jeffrey Eugenides


THE BLIND ASSASSIN – Margaret Atwood

DARK PLACES – Gillian Flynn


THE ENGLISH PATIENT – Michael Ondaatje



FED – Mira Grant

THE BEES – Laline Paull

ORLEANS – Sherri L Smith

WOOL – Hugh Howey

PACIFIC EYES – Kim Stanley Robinson

UNDER HEAVEN – Guy Gavriel Kay

DISGRACE – J.M. Coetzee





From the Vaults – The Magician’s Guild Review

A mate of mine dropped me an email last week letting me know that I had sent her reviews of the Black Magicians’s Trilogy way back in 2009.

These reviews actually predate the book club (I think) and will be posted under the email receipt date in a few weeks.

Despite every impulse within me, I won’t be editing these reviews at all, except for basic tidy up to follow the usual LBC review format.  I’ve even left in the infuriating oxford commas that I now avoid like the plague!!



BLURB( Amazon )

Each year the magicians of Imardin gather to purge the city streets of beggars, urchins and miscreants. Masters of the disciplines of magic, they know that no one can oppose them. But their protective shield is not as impenetrable as they believe.

As the mob is herded from the city, Sonea, a young street girl, furious at the authorities’ treatment of her family and friends, hurls a stone at the shield, putting all of her rage behind it. To the amazement of all who watch, there is a flash of blue light and the stone passes straight through the barrier and cracks a magican on the temple, rendering him unconscious.

After five hundred years of order, the guild’s worst fear has been realised – an untrained magician is loose on the streets. She must be found, and quickly, before her uncontrolled powers unleash forces that will destroy both her, and the city that is her home.

Emailed to my friend on 6th January 2009.

TBM 01

So a friend lent me this to read, promising that I’d become as hooked on the series as she was!!
I could completely see why she’d think so
– strong female characters – CHECK
– supernaturally / sci-fi orientated – CHECK
– drama and intrigue all the way – CHECKAnd yet, as I read, I became really depressed. It’s not that the idea isn’t great – it is and its not that I didn’t find the story intriguing, well paced and thought provoking – I did.
But I didn’t enjoy it.
I didn’t think that the writing was really up to scratch, and although I loved the story line I couldn’t help thinking that it was so unfair that all the books I would have loved as a young adult were written when I was too old to appreciate them. (LBC Present date note – Oh the pomposity of it all)Again, don’t get me wrong, the subject matter was not at fault. I just felt like it was written for a younger me. One who wouldn’t have noticed the occasionally repeated phrase or language. And the oft convenient plot twists established early in the story that were not as subtle as they thought they were.
the ‘fessing up
So, I kind of dreaded facing my friend. How awful to say that the book was a bit…bland …a bit juvenile. What sort of a pretentious twerp does that make me?!?!Ahem, anyhoo, she took it remarkably well. She shrugged, said something like “yeah i thought that too but I’ve the whole series. Here, read the next one.””No” said I.”No really, “she replied “it’s worth it.”

“No honestly.”  from me

“I said read it!” She was clearly losing patience with me.

Meekly I answered “well, OK, I mean…was always going to…never leave a series unread and all that…”


So…see you at the next review…

From the Vault

The Black Magician Trilogy

  1. The Magician’s Guild
  2. The Novice
  3. The High Lord

LBC White Swan – Good Omens Write Up

LBC White Swan

Date:  Sunday 12th of July 2015
Time:  6:00pm
Address: Swan Street, Leeds




The BLURB (Amazon)

Armageddon only happens once, you know. They don’t let you go around again until you get it right.”

According to the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch – the world’s only totally reliable guide to the future, written in 1655, before she exploded – the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just after tea…

People have been predicting the end of the world almost from its very beginning, so it’s only natural to be sceptical when a new date is set for Judgement Day. This time though, the armies of Good and Evil really do appear to be massing. The four Bikers of the Apocalypse are hitting the road. But both the angels and demons – well, one fast-living demon and a somewhat fussy angel – would quite like the Rapture not to happen.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist…

good omensIn the past I may have mentioned that, every now and again, book club meetings can descend into a sort of hazy chaotic madness. A wondrous, fun and exciting journey into the conversationally dodgy that make for a wonderfully entertaining few hours…but are impossible to ever write up.

Well tonight…we escalated.

Before we were all even sat down, we had entered a strange and surreal zone where poster tubes and …sex toys…were leading towards some proper deep confusion. Note to self – when referencing swinging one round like a light saber- specify which for any persons not quite caught up.

We did try to get back on track and spent oh… at least a solid moment on footmarks. One person was totally irritated by them (though hadn’t remembered being so bothered by them in the past) while another enjoyed the sense of historical authenticity that this brought to a very ridiculous book. It turned out that only one of the group hadn’t read the book at all; two were reading the book for the first time while the remaining 11 clubbers were revisiting the book, some for the nth time.

After a brief segue into Harry Potter (and the misprint that has the spirits come out of the wand in the wrong order) we valiently returned to our stated purpose and discussed the approach that the two authors had while approaching this book,based on Gaiman’s original concept. We learned that originally, the idea had been for a Just William style set of stories, where William was the anti-Christ. Short story writers – get on that – this is exactly the sort of book that I would read and love! This was Neil Gaiman’s first novel. It’s hard to imagine now a time when he wasn’t the twitter rock star of the author set, but it must have been quite a risk for Terry Pratchett too. We admired that neither writer shied away from the truly surreal within this book. They obviously decided to write whatever they wanted and the book is stronger for all its resultant strangeness. (Except the aliens – that drove one of us scatty. Though we all liked the Tibetans…who wouldn’t?)

Fans on either side reflected on how each author has changed and evolved as a writer since 1990 and so the book would be very different if it happened now. (One of us noted that Gaiman had come full circle and is back to this level of whimsical fairytale again) We also wondered what form, if any, a sequel could have taken.

Then there was bedlem for a bit. At this point, I still had hope so I didn’t make a note of what it was that distracting us at that precise moment.

One brave member stood out from the crowd and revealed that nothing about the book really ever drew him in – it just wasn’t a book that he found particularly enjoyable. Another noted that she found it less enjoyable this time than she had in the past. Those of us who had enjoyed the book reflected a bit further and one member revealed that she read it much as someone would go for comfort food. She didn’t read it expecting it to reveal anything new, rather she reads it to find something familiar.

We wandered off course for a bit again, before reluctantly discussing some of the characters. We tended towards loving  Crowley and Aziraphale, with one member revealing that she saw them as the ultimate civil servants. Realistically, neither role significantly changes regardless of which side is on top – they epitomize apathy towards the system. The Biker Gang divided the group. Some very much liked them (especially as they chose their names) while others found them to be the weak link. Actually, it was the same with the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. We loved the descriptions (and replacement member) but they felt like mere descriptors rather than truly playing a pivotal role. One noted that this was Pratchett’s weakest version of Death, but I personally enjoyed the idea of a slightly shit Death. He doesn’t need to be competent, he will never lose. Everyone dies. We loved Agnes, Anathema Device and her ‘love’ story was hilarious. We agreed that characters were one of Pratchett’s strengthens and noted her similarities with Death’s goddaughter in the Hogfather and what’s her name from Going Postal – Adora.

Then we wandered into ancient english fonts and languages and names. It was barely relevant but probably the closest that we came for the remainder of the hour. We went wild again. My suggestions that we discuss the book were met with blank stares and continued mini-group chats. I don’t think we actually managed to return to the book at all.

By the time that we were about ready to score the books, the table had descended into utter chaos, with a few of the group discussing the upcoming STARZ series of American Gods and their ideal casting suggestion. Using my imaginary authority, I insisted on taking the scores…then left before that conversation picked up again. I think we know who the real loser in this situation was. :(

good omens 02The Beeb has released a really terrific audio version of the book (which at least one of our group really didn’t enjoy as the actors voices didn’t match up with his imagined voices…and he read the books years ago…).

The cast is lead by Peter Serafinowicz and Mark Heap as Crowley and Aziraphale. Both of the authors have a brief cameo.

Personally, I really enjoyed this (but I didn’t read this back in the 90’s, I only discovered this gem over Christmas) and would highly recommend it.

Here’s Neil Gaiman introducing the novel.


7 out of 10

For further details, please email me at or tweet me @LeedsBookClub

The Pub can be contacted on @WhiteSwanLeeds

And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #LBCWSwan!

Un-Picked books from LBC White Swan

Book fallAs always we have a list left over, so if you’re looking for some suggestions, have a look here!



HALF A KING – Jow Abercrombie

THE PINES – Blake Crouch


THE THREE – Sarah Lotz

YOU – Caroline Kepnes

UNDER HEAVEN – Guy Garvriel Kay

WHITE TEETH – Zadie Smith

LION’S HONEY – David Grossman

A GOD IN RUINS – Kate Atkinson


LBC Medusa – The Girl on the Train – Write Up

LBC Medusa 

Date:  Wednesday 8th of July 2015
Time:  7:30pm
Address: 8-10 Town Street, Horsforth, Leeds 



* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
  * * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *  

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…


the-girl-on-the-trainWe all of us agreed that this was one of those books that once you start, you feel compelled to read on. A few of us dedicated hours that could have usefully been employed doing many MANY other things just to keep up with the ever increasing, beautifully managed pace of the story.

Some amongst our group – those who tended to only read one or two thriller style books a year – also admitted to being determined to read this quickly, while still held under its spell, before the plot hours and devices became too obvious to ignore. We’ve been burned in the past by books that were great in the moment but couldn’t withstand deeper scrutiny. This was summed up about 3 minutes into our discussion when one of our number noted that ‘it was a good afternoons read, however the more I think about it, the more I HATE it’.

Structurally, we all responded favourably to the three person narrative, set in two time lines. This meant that we were constantly world building and had to pay attention to who was doing the narration and when. Though of course, we did have a quibble about the blurb…as we do… At no point was Rachel ever merely *a* girl on a train – she was in fact intimately connected with the street and at least one family on it. This is turn led to a rant about the overuse of the word girl when selling novels (though to be fair we did qualify that we didn’t know whether this was always the title/central concept of the book or one chosen by a marketing department somewhere). Especially when Rachel – actually a relatively young woman at 34 years – was initially described as sounding much older physically.

We sidelined for a bit on how frightening it is at how quickly information can be gathered about a person online. Facebook, social networking, instagram… apparently from just a name, people can find out a whole heap about a person.

The characters on the other hand were far less satisfactory to us. Anna seemed to actively devolve as the book progressed. Indeed, she was a substantively more rounded character when being spitefully and wistfully described by Rachel than she is as a narrator. For one or two of us, it was inconceivable that she would have bought into Tom’s story about being unable to see the house. She was in real estate FFS! She knew the market. Holes like this lead many of us to figure out the conclusion faster than might normally be expected.


Megan was delightful but in a very manic pixie trope sort of way. Her backstory on the other hand felt very well realised and genuinely tragic, though I personally chaffed at the idea that she needed to seduce her counselor in order to distort the power balance to get the story out. Hmmmm

Rachel was a great character for most of us. Her narration is unreliable but only because she is lying to herself. Watching her descent into the bottle and her battle to re orientate her memories were particularly powerful scenes. Her relationship with Claire felt realistic and a little bit heartbreaking. I personally could have done without the scooby doo happy ending cure at the end of the novel but hey, redemption comes in mnay forms and good on her.

The male characters on the other hand were the slightest of slight. The most successful con job was between Megan and the man of her affair. Tom never quite seemed visible to many of us. Scott as opposed to Jason was a more foul and creepy creature. His relationship with Rachel felt odd to me but seemed to be perfectly in character to others. Certainly it further maintained the difference between the fantasy of Jason and the real lives before Rachel. However the pacing and the cheap thrill dilemma at the end of every single chapter (usually described away in a matter of lines once that story thread was picked up again) did genuinely keep us hooked.

The two cops were literally prototypes of Good Cop Bad Cop which was a bit frustrating. It seemed to many of us that even within that parameter, the Bad Cop (female) wouldn’t have ignored the information from Rachel.

Then we (by we, read I) became obsessed with the idea of the book being turned into a film and set to picking our ideal cast. And by ideal I mean actors whose names we could remember and with a certain hotness factor.
traingirl 01
Rachel – Emily Blunt* or Anne Hathaway maybe though we were aware that neither lady could be described as Rachel had been of having recently considerably loosened the reigns appearance wise… However, both have portrayed characters with frayed nerves and/or unreliable memories with aplomb.
traingirl 02
Megan – Carey Mulligan – in full wide eyed manic pixie glory. Her turn as Daisy has convinced me that she can make the least likable character sympathetic and gracious.
I would also have put Tuppence Middleton as a contender though the character is possibly a little close to Riley from (the FANTASTIC AMAZING AND AWESOME) Sense8.
traingirl gif
Anna – Naomi Watts was ruled out for being too warm for this vicious character. However, we reckon that Michelle Williams has the capacity to go full biatch with style.
traingirl 03
Tom – Dominic West – especially as he comes across as such a nice guy in interviews.
traingirl 05
Scott – Tom Hardy – he does wander round topless quite a bit…the character that is…
 traingirl 04
Counselor – Javier Bardem (yes please) or Kayvan Novak – soulful eyes… One or two of us were quite happy with Julian Bashir from Deep Space 9 (Alexander Siddig)
 traingirl 06
Oh and any of the Gleesons to portray the random red headed dude.
Yes, at one point it did become necessary for one of our (male) book clubbers to ask if we were guilty of objectifying men. However, I did point out that with a cast that included Emily Blunt/Carey Mulligan and Michelle Williams…I was confident that there were sweeteners for the fellas too!
 traingirl 07
* Sweet Merciful Zeus – Simon you were spot on – we are clearly all of the geniuses!
The film rights for the novel were acquired by Dreamworks on March 24, 2014 with Marc Platt set to produce. On May 21, 2015 it was announced that the director of The Help David Platt would be directing the film based on a script wrtitten by Erin Cressida Wilson. On June 5, 2015 it was announced that British actress, Emily Blunt, was in talks to play the role of Rachel.



For further details, please email me at or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!

Contact the bar on @MedusaBar

And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #LBCMedusa!

LBC Medusa – Books ‘un’ picked

As always we have a list of books that were not selected, so if you’re looking for some suggestions, have a look here!

Book fall

DON’T CRY TAI LAKE – Qiu Xiadong


THE LONG EARTH – Terry Pratchett




THE THREE – Sarah Lotz



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