Category Archives: Book Club
21st February – The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov
PLEASE NOTE – the February date has been pushed back by a week to avoid clashing with Valentines Day.
11th February – The City and the City – China Mieville
18th March – How to Paint a Dead Man – Sarah Hall
PLEASE NOTE – the March date has been pushed back by a week to avoid clashing with Mothers Day.
Delighted and excited to announce that @BookElfLeeds has a brand new reading challenge!
Jess had decided to seek out the Christmas Spirit in contemporary fiction. And like all good reading challenges; there’s a strict criteria to be followed.
- The book must have Christmas in the title.
- Some one has lost the Christmas Spirit.
- A Christmas Miracle will therefore have to occur.
- Some one will then regain the Christmas Spirit.
So please, make yourself comfy and enjoy the 8th review!
The Nolan family of Friday Harbor, in the San Juan Islands, Washington State (which sounds like a beautiful place)
In what form does the Christmas Miracle occur?
Whimsical toy shop owner Maggie, who is in need of a teeny miracle of her own.
Ooff this one got me straight in the gut. I’ve clearly been reading far too many of these now, as I was completely invested in this short, easy to digest story.
When Victoria Nolan is killed in a car accident, her brother Mark is made guardian of her daughter, Holly. Mark is a confirmed bachelor, along with his brother Sam, living in their home town of Friday Harbor. This is a part of the world I’d never heard of before, but apparently there’s a load of islands off the coast of Washington state that are basically a mini-paradise of nature trails, vineries, whale watching, art and culture, all with that quintessential small-town-America appeal vital to a good Christmas yarn. I did find myself ideally looking up holidays there, it sounds just delightful.
Anyway, Mark and Sam try, bless them, but Holly, having lost her mum at the age of six, is a little bit lost and stops speaking. It is only when the wander into the new toy shop on the island and meet lovely shop keeper and magic-enthusiast Maggie that she begins to open up.
This for me was when the magic happened. I just LOVED Maggie. She’s got a super tragic back story and has lots of healing to do before she can fall for the handsome hero. I loved her toy shop, I loved her relationship with Holly, and I just fell for her.
Mark is a good guy thrown into a shitty situation of losing his sister and learning about love through adopting his niece, but, again, I just fell for it. I don’t know if it was the fact I’ve put my Christmas lights up and finished this book cuddled up on the sofa with them twinkling in the background but I found this short book utterly charming, and was delighted to discover through GoodReads it is part of a series, the first that I will definitely be exploring further. The best thing about this challenge so far has been discovering new authors I probably would have otherwise avoided, and turns out Lisa Kleypas has written a load of bodice rippers which I just love and will be requesting for my library shortly!
This book was made into the Hallmark movie Christmas With Holly (much cheesier title) in 2012, which also looks utterly charming, Sunday morning hangover whilst wrapping the presents viewing. Lovely stuff.
Listen to @BookElfLeeds and I introduce the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge – HERE
Or just click here!
Review 01 – Nine Lives of Christmas
Review 02 – The Christmas Secret
Review 03 – Last Christmas
Review 04 – Lakeshore Christmas
Review 05 – Home for Christmas
Review 06 – Christmas Magic
Review 07 – Claude’s Christmas Adventure
The podcast is back! Huzzah!!
And it’s back because @BookElfLeeds is doing a new reading challenge – the 12 reads of Christmas!! Huzzah huzzah!!!
She will mostly be reading books that follow a strict and very complex criteria (reviews will start tomorrow) which she sums up as
‘someone has lost (or does not have) The Christmas Spirit. There is The Christmas Miracle (oft aided by small children or animals). The person therefore finds (or gains) The Christmas Spirit.’
Also, it has to have Christmas in the title.
From A Christmas Carol to It’s a Wonderful Life, hallmark movies and children’s classics, tv specials and Christmas music – we take a moment to appreciate the hope behind the holiday.
One of the first books in the challenge was called ‘The Nine Lives of Christmas’ by Sheila Roberts, which was turned into a Hallmark Christmas movie in 2014, starring a former Superman.Enjoy!
(I know. I KNOW. It’s not even Halloween yet and here I am, plotting dates for next year.)
LBC3 is our quarterly book club. We meet every three months on a Saturday morning to book club, drink lots of hot chocolate and – naturally – set the world to rights.
Originally, we started out with no fixed theme, just a desire to tackle longer reads (quickly abandoned), though in the past few years we have very tentatively stuck to a few loose threads to help us make our choices.
One year we focused on Great American Novels; another on reading minority or marginalised (or less often regarded) viewpoints; centenary reads (oooh – and LBC-er pointed out to me that Frankenstein is 200 next year!); the occasional tribute to a favourite author who recently passed away and this year we read we prioritized authors from each country within the United Kingdom.
Our most consistent feature is that we have always alternated between female and male authors.
We meet on the third Saturday, from 11am – 1pm for coffee, cake and a totally coherent, sensible and focused chat. If you’d like to join us, please feel free to pop down to our next meeting in January (or drop me a link on leedsbookclub @ gmail.com or on twitter @LeedsBookClub
20th January 2018 – One by One in the Darkness – Deirdre Madden
21st April 2018 – TBA
21st July 2018 – TBA
20th October 2018 – TBA
Cafe 164 – City CentreUnit 2 Munro House, Duke St, Leeds LS9 8AG Tweet: @Cafe164 Web: Here!
We have our next few months choices in, taking us up to the end of the year…if you can believe it. I think I’m in denial. It’s really like…May?
Anyway, for your reading pleasure!
LBC 3 Reads (#LBC3Reads)
- 21st October – Matilda by Roald Dahl
- 20th January – TBA
LBC Horsforth (#LBCHorsforth)
- 11th October – Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders
- 8th November – Autumn – Ali Smith
- 10th January – TBA
LBC White Swan (#LBCWSwan)
- 12th November – The Fishermen – Chigozie Obioma
- 14th January – TBA
One by one the boys begin to fall…
In 1914 a room full of German schoolboys, fresh-faced and idealistic, are goaded by their schoolmaster to troop off to the ‘glorious war’. With the fire and patriotism of youth they sign up. What follows is the moving story of a young ‘unknown soldier’ experiencing the horror and disillusionment of life in the trenches.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (AMAZON)
Erich Maria Remarque was a German author and veteran of the First World War. He was born 1898 in Osnabrück, Germany. At the age of 18 he was conscripted into the German army. During his service he was wounded by shrapnel in the left leg, right arm and neck. Following the war he worked as a primary school teacher, and later as a librarian, a journalist and a technical writer.
Among Remarque’s published novels were All Quiet on the Western Front, The Road Back, Three Comrades and Arch of Triumph. His works were publicly burned by the Nazi German government, and in 1947 he and his first wife became naturalised citizens of the United States. Four years earlier, his sister had been executed at the behest of Hitler’s ‘People’s Court’.
Remarque adapted the book Ten Days to Die, about Hitler’s final days, as a screenplay, and he also wrote for the stage. His last novel was The Night in Lisbon, published in 1962. During his lifetime Remarque married twice and had love affairs with the actresses Hedy Lamarr, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo.
Thanks very much to the wonderful Karoline for hosting and writing up this book club – find her here @KarolineAKemp!
It was good to welcome two new faces to our discussion, Jane and Katy who also come to White Swan.
We had a discussion about the translation, some of the group had a more recent translation from the mid 1990’s and it was generally felt to be much more accessible than the earlier one. We also discussed the translation of the title, the note on the new translation states that a direct translation from the German is ‘Nothing New on the Western Front’
The book was fairly easy to read in the modern translation and it was noted that that the tense changed from the singular to the plural during the scenes at the front. It was noted that nowadays we expect to have strong characterisation and narrative drive from contemporary fiction but that there is no narrative drive in War. As the book went on it became more and more detached as Paul became more detached from his own life.
AQOTWF is written from the point of view of a German private Paul. It was felt that the language used was chosen to emphasise the commonality and gruelling of experience of trench warfare regardless of side. Emphasised particularly in the scene in the shell hole with the solider that he killed. It is also something that has been brought out recently by historians of the First World War (see the History Hit podcast with @gerarmyresearch).
It was felt that the language used effectively conveyed vivid imagery of the experiences of being in the front line as well as the banality of being behind the lines when comic interludes such as Kat getting the food were used to good effect. The emphasis on the food (or lack) of it conveyed its importance to the troops, most effectively that when they suddenly get good food they realise that it means they are heading to the front line.
We felt that the characterisation was kept deliberately vague, the concentration was on passages dealing with Paul’s interior life such as when he was on leave and felt totally alienated from his previous life, We felt that Paul represented the everyman, he grew but never lost his humanity.
We felt that the strong bond between the school friends was shown well. We all felt the horror of the scenes with the rats and felt that the scenes in the mists where very lyrical which intensified the horror.
The book also pointed out how much harder it was going to be for the younger men who had become soldiers straight from school to readjust and/or keep going as they didn’t have families/jobs to go back to. It was also very scathing about the generation who were too old to fight themselves but where very vocal at making the younger generations go.
We decided that we would have preferred the end to have been left more open than it was and felt that it packed a lot into quite a slim book.
Trailer for the 1979 film[youtube https://youtu.be/DX1PW2n8POg]
We have our next few months choices in!
LBC 3 Reads (#LBC3Reads)
- NOTE – moved to August – venue TBA
- High Rising – Angela Thirkell
LBC Horsforth (#LBCHorsforth)
- 9 August – The Good Immigrant – Nikesh Shukla
- 13 September – The Lemon Table – Julian Barnes
LBC White Swan (#LBCWSwan)
- 13 August – The last condo board of the Apocalypse – Nina Post
- 10 September – Pirate Cinema – Cory Doctorow
A quick update on what our next few reads shall be! As always, if you spot any corrections, don’t hesitate to let me know!
- 8th – Horsforth – God help the child – Toni Morrison
- 12th – White Swan – The Three Body Problem – Cixin Liu
- 12th – Horsforth – TBA
- 9th – White Swan – Hagseed by Margaret Atwood (if available) or The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula L Guin
- 22nd – LBC3 Reads – Whit by Iain Banks
Just wanted to let anyone heading down south know that the superb production of The Kite Runner is currently running in the West End!
Visit the Wyndham’s Theatre website HERE to get all the details on how to catch this very impressive production.
‘For you…a thousand times over…’
Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.
This should be an impossible book to adapt. Afghanistan is a changing place in 1975. Religion and politics are evolving the landscape further. It is in this background that two boys attempt to navigate their path, which happens to be an emerging family tragedy. The book covers a span of 30 years. That Matthew Spangler succeeds and succeeds beautifully in distilling the essence of this tale into a mere two acts – well it ought to be an impossible feat.
On a sparse stage, populated only by a musicians mat; a flowing backdrop and a carpet with a thousand interpretations; an intensely emotional story unfolds. The lack of clutter, heck, the near disdain of props merely served to emphasis the interpersonal focus of this play.
The hero of this production has to be Ben Turner. Aside from being the only constant presence on the stage; he manages to pull off a difficult task with aplomb. At no point is he ever in denial that he is portraying Amir as a deeply flawed person – indeed for much of the play the character appears to be cowardly, unlikeable with few redeeming features. He flies a kite, embodying enthusiastically a 12 year old and brings equal weight to his reflection as an older narrator. However, as time passes, Ben makes the audience aware of something that Amir never quite realises. He is as much a victim (albeit to a far lesser degree) of Assef’s violence as Hassan and certainly of his father’s coldness and – as becomes apparent – lies.
In a stellar cast of consummate professionals – it is impossible to understate the menace that Nicholas Karimi brings to the bully Assef. From the second he appears, spitting out insults and swaggering a la John Wayne; he dominates and intimidates. His interactions with Andrei Costin (in the dual role of Hassan and Sohrah) in particular are just harrowing.
One of the most lovely and touching aspects of a play that confirms, defies and compounds expectations (frequently in the same passage of dialogue!) is a character that emerges intact from the pages of the book. The sole (significant) speaking female role is that of Soraya, portrayed by Lisa Zahra. Though she only appears in the later sections of the play; she is the most honest and brave character – following her heart and owning her mistakes. On a male dominated stage; her every interaction with Amir is refreshing and cleansing – not necessarily what one is led to expect from a story set mostly in Taliban ruled Afghanistan.
The music throughout the play plays a powerful role and is primarily provided by Hanif Khan; an internationally renowned classically trained Indian musician and performer, who – like Ben Turner – remains on stage for the bulk of the performance. The melodies he provides both inform the story and provide emotional context. The music and sounds created by the cast provide an atmospheric backdrop; at once unobtrusive yet pervasive. A constant and haunting refrain throughout that serves as a reminder that while the story may be set in lands far away; the ultimate search for redemption is a universal one. That the sheer act of being human makes us strive to better ourselves, to make up for those things that we have done wrong, to seek to make amends…even when it is too late.
Adapted by Matthew Spangler from the novel by Khaled Hosseini
Music: Jonathan Girling
Director: Giles Croft
The Kite Runner at the West Yorkshire Playhouse
Buy tickets HERE
Visit the Nottingham Playhouse Theatre website HERE
Visit the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse website HERE
Visit the Wyndham’s Theatre website HERE