Category Archives: LBC White Swan

February and March Choices

Hi all,

As I’ve been a bit out of things, I’m only just getting around to finding out what books are when. Please do let me know if I get the books in the wrong order, the dates muddled and so on!

Shall be aiming to catch up with emails and admin over the next fortnight – apologies if you’ve been waiting ages!!

February

  • 8th – Horsforth – The Tale of the Duelling Neurosurgeons – Sam Kean
  • 12th – White Swan – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

March

  • 8th – Horsforth – God help the child – Toni Morrison
  • 12th – White Swan – TBA

April

  • 12th – Horsforth – TBA
  • 9th – White Swan – TBA
  • 22nd – LBC3 Reads – Whit by Iain Banks

happy-reading

LBC White Swan review: Americanah

LBC White Swan

Venue: White Swan Leeds

Date: Sunday 10th of April 2016

Time:  6:00pm

Address: Swan Street, Leeds

 Discussing:
Americanah

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah book coverA powerful, tender story of race and identity by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun.

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

About the author:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. She is the author of the novelsPurple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, a New York Times Notable Book, and a People and Black Issues Book Review Best Book of the Year; and the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. Her latest novel Americanah, was published around the world in 2013, and has received numerous accolades, including winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction; and being named one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year.

A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.

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As a group, most of us had really enjoyed this book – some of us more than we’d expected to, as from the blurb the plot looked very slight.

The real strength of this book is in the characters. All were very relatable, well-drawn and sympathetic. There was particular affection for Ifemelu’s Aunty Uju. For a book with such a large cast of characters, it would have been easy for some to have felt like stereotypes, but this never felt the case. Even characters that only appeared briefly were well-rounded and believable. There weren’t really any dislikeable characters, with the possible exception of Blaine’s sister Shan, but we felt this was because the characters didn’t like her either!

Some of us felt the plot was almost incidental – that this was more a novel of ideas than plot – but that this wasn’t a negative thing. Someone had quoted the author as saying she was more interested in substance than structure, and this felt very true of this book. Having said that, we also thought that it was structurally very clever, and well-crafted. The word “unputdownable” was used! Apparently the author spent 5 years writing this book, and the craft and care taken are apparent.

The narrative is interspersed throughout with excerpts from Ifem’s blog, these are thematic rather than chronological. Although this can sometimes be a slightly irritating device in books, here we all thought it worked really well. We all really enjoyed the style of Ifem’s blog – if it were a real blog, we would have followed it!

Our only small criticism of the book’s structure was that it would have been nice to see more of Obinze – although some in the group would have preferred to do without his sections at all and just focus on Ifemelu! We all agreed though that the divide between the two characters was rather uneven. For example, Obinze’s journey from being deported from the UK and returning, broke, to Nigeria, to becoming a wealthy but corrupt businessman, was glossed over. Some of us would have liked to see more of how he had made this journey, but we thought it was probably glossed over as it reflects Ifem’s view of him, as she would also have perceived this change as jarring.

There was lots in this book that made for slightly uncomfortable reading, in particular the portrayal of Ifem’s white, liberal friends in the US, and their varying discomfort and cluelessness around race. It also raised a lot of issues that some of us hadn’t been familiar with (although some had come across them before), for example the politicisation of black women’s hair. We thought it was notable that Ifem’s starts wearing her hair naturally around the same time she stops faking an American accent – we saw this as her realisation that being accepted as American isn’t what she needs or wants.

Most of the story is fairly timeless, with limited details that fix it to a particular time period. The exception to this is of course the sections detailing Barack Obama’s election as US President, which we had mixed feelings about. On the one hand, it was felt that this took us out of the story somewhat, grounding it in a specific time and place, which was a little jarring. On the other hand, in a book about an African woman living in the US and blogging about race, such a significant event in US racial history could hardly have been ignored! We also wondered if, without the context of Obama’s election placing the narrative in a specific time period, it would have been easier for readers to have dismissed the racism Ifem experiences as a thing of the past.

We had mixed feelings about the ending. Some of us felt it was unrealistic for Ifem and Obinze to have ended up together, with them having grown apart so much. We wondered if perhaps Ifem was clinging on to her memories of the Obinze she had known and been in love with in the past. The ending was the only real let down for some of us, the romantic “happy ending” felt a bit shoehorned in.

Other than that minor note, we all rated this book very highly, and would definitely read more of this author’s work.

Score

9/10

LBCWhiteswan review – Perks of being a wallflower

LBC White Swan

Date:  Sunday 9th of February 2014
                         Time:  6:00pm
             Address: Swan Street, Leeds

Discussing: 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

by Stephen Chbosky


4327066Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up. -Goodreads

About the Author

Stephen Chbosky grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of Southern California’s Filmic Writing Program. His first film, The Four Corners of Nowhere, premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win Best Narrative Feature honors at the Chicago Underground Film Festival.

He is the recipient of the Abraham Polonsky Screenwriting Award for his screenplay Everything Divided as well as a participant in the Sundance Institute’s filmmakers’ lab for his current project, Fingernails and Smooth Skin. Chbosky lives in New York. -Goodreads

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the_perks_of_being_a_wallflower_by_08brooky80-d4tch6o1 So this is a story about a boy, a ‘coming of age story’ where we follow the trials and tribulations of a teenager.

 In this case it is Charlie, who tells his story through a series of letters to a stranger. We learn all about his family and his school years. The book is a one person narrative and we never hear from any other characters point of view, just Charlie’s.

The book however does go into some interesting areas and looks at teenage relationships, drugs, sexuality, sexual abuse and mental health.  The book did get banned in America in some schools due to the subjects it covered.

The gay prejudices portrayed in the book were really well done and use of characters, creating trigger points into the story, leading to revelations such as Patrick and his relationship with Brad, and then onto Charlie and his relationship with his Aunt Helen. The group felt that Charlie and his constant crying was a bit irritating yet Patrick and his troubles, was very well depicted and Sam, the lead female seemed to be a ‘pretty’ character who showed up when needed.

Going back to the story, throughout the book its all about how Charlie sees the world, and how it lead to him discovering or rediscovering that he was abused by his Aunt Helen when he was much younger like she was by a family friend and how this leads him to be found in a catatonic state and taken to a mental hospital.

The book touches on the subject of repressed memories and feelings and trigger points, on family members and secrets, on how we want to be perceived in the world and how we treat each other. Some of the group felt the book was actually read as a mental illness and if you re-read it you could see the cracks appearing throughout the story.

 “Even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there”

Overall the group agreed teenagers are exhausting, complicated and lack emotion and although the book appeared not to be well written, it did have a lot of purpose in its story, the way it was laid out in letter form, represented human thought, and lead onto  an interesting way to introduce the subjects it covered, saying that a few believed if the had read it as a teenager they may have got into it more.

Thank you for reading.

Score

7/10

*Tangents: Big debate on drugs and drug use Music: Niamh made Fleetwood Mac get together. Don’t argue with Niamh. Niamh is Irish, had a fight and lost a tooth???. Niamh can quote Shakespeare. 

 

For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!
The Pub can be contacted on @WhiteSwanLeeds
And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #WSwanLBC!

OUR WRITE UPs

LBC White Swan review – Storm Front (The Dresden Files) – Jim Butcher

LBC White Swan

Date:  Sunday 13th of March 2016
Time:  6:00pm
Address: Swan Street, Leeds

Discussing:  Storm Front  (The Dresden Files) – Book 1

JIM BUTCHER

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THE BLURB (from Amazon)

Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) Wizard P.I. Turns out the ‘everyday’ world is full of strange and magical things – and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in.

Harry is the best at what he does – and not just because he’s the only one who does it. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal capabilities, they look to him for answers. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks.

So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get . . . interesting.

Magic – it can get a guy killed.

About the Author

Jim Butcher is the author of the Dresden Files, the Codex Alera, and a new steampunk series, the Cinder Spires. His resume includes a laundry list of skills which were useful a couple of centuries ago, and he plays guitar quite badly. An avid gamer, he plays tabletop games in varying systems, a variety of video games on PC and console, and LARPs whenever he can make time for it. Jim currently resides mostly inside his own head, but his head can generally be found in his home town of Independence, Missouri.

Jim goes by the moniker Longshot in a number of online locales. He came by this name in the early 1990′s when he decided he would become a published author. Usually only 3 in 1000 who make such an attempt actually manage to become published; of those, only 1 in 10 make enough money to call it a living. The sale of a second series was the breakthrough that let him beat the long odds against attaining a career as a novelist.

Review 

covers_112202 Where do I begin……

Before the discussion officially started; a big debate erupted about Star Wars and spoilers; and how people spoil things in the simplest ways by being so excited that they need to spill the beans on some unsuspecting soul and have a long awaited film or book ruined before they got to see/read it*, and then we began.

I think the group was split on who was new to the series/book and who had re-read it before leaping on the fact that the main character was very annoying, egotistical, weird and his chauvinism was very off putting. Then it led onto the other characters. How the women were all depicted as socially ideal and like most of them didn’t have much depth to the character, and were therefore poorly served by the author. Whereas the supernatural folk on the other hand, were given more preferential treatment, including the lovely Faerie Toots who devoured pizza.

youre-a-harry-wizard_fb_1106890

sorry wrong Harry

However the blending of the real world and the alternative gave it the grounding it needed.  The story was told in the first person narrative, appearing to keep everyone at a distance, which was possibly a reason why people didn’t warm to Harry. Regarding how it appeared that everyone was kept at a distance – perhaps it was just because of how technology went weird around him; he just thought it safer. On a personal note – I highly recommend him earthing himself – doormats work wonders when technology is involved!

As mentioned, the book is the first in a series. A few thought that the author packed a lot into the book. However, the fact that he did not give much away about the backstory of the wizard – how he got his powers and why Morgan hates him – made (it seem) everyone want to carry on and read the rest of the series (16 books so far) .

Back to characters, and we must mention Bob, ‘Bob and Yorak, I knew them so well!Sorry, had to add that. Bob wasAn intelligent air spirit who resides inside a skull in Dresden’s sub-basement laboratory’. Or as mentioned… ‘today’s version of the internet’ This book was written over 16 years ago and sometimes we forget what wasn’t around way back when (sorry a few decades ago, how times have changed ). How Harry perhaps couldn’t work all his magic without a little help from Bob. Sometimes the sub-characters are the best, yes that goes for you Toots – you pizza eating faerie!!

imagesCarrying on from how things are changed, one person brought up the soul gazing part of the book and felt slightly uncomfortable with it, how it broke the natural flow of things. But as mentioned we must remember the time it was written, and what was going on. Society has changed a lot since then. Saying that the overall feel of the book was that it was a very light and quick read, not brilliant writing (it is a first book remember and it does get better), the whole idea of Harry being a wizard and the build up of his character as a wizard and not using must magic until the end making most of us start to cheer for him, as he shows that reading the instructions makes you a better wizard, a lesson to be learned by everyone there.

Thank you for reading

Next book 8th May- The Bees by Laline Paull

*Tangents: Liam catching spiders and killing them via the toilet-don’t go there!. underage-Were-swans??. Buffy is 19 years old. Starwars- spoilers, lead characters etc. Man with post-it notes. Terry Pratchett Books. Zombie dinosaurs. Names and identities of people, associate names with people and forget their real name. Harry Potter and prisoner of Azkaban best in series. Monogram towels.

LBC White Swan – January ‘Un-Choices’

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

THE CITY AND THE PILLAR – Gore Vidal

THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG – Peter Carey

HALF A KING – Joe Abercrombie

ANCILLIARY JUSTICE – Ann Leckie

THE CITY AND THE CITY – China Mieville

THE BEES – Laline Paull

OSAMA – Lavie Tidnor

GO SET A WATCHMAN – Harper Lee

TITUS GROAN – Meryn Peake

FROG MUSIC – Emma Donoghue

THE LADY IN THE VAN – Alan Bennett

LBC White Swan – The Chaos of Stars – Write Up

LBC White Swan

Date:  Sunday 9th of November 2015
Time:  6:00pm
Address: Swan Street, Leeds

Discussing:

THE CHAOS OF STARS

KIERSTEN WHITE

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BLURB

Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up—which comes with the territory when you’re the human daughter of the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris.

Isadora is tired of her immortal relatives and their ancient mythological drama, so when she gets the chance to move to California with her brother, she jumps on it.

But her new life comes with plenty of its own dramatic—and dangerous—complications . . . and Isadora quickly learns there’s no such thing as a clean break from family.

REVIEW

the chaos of starsOur last meeting for 2015 and it was SUCH a laugh. So much so that I’ve committed not only to a Christmas Read-a-Long, but also a Christmas party (details will be posted on the blog when I’ve…you know…arranged them).

It was even better because the book just didn’t work for us and we as we were all of a mind; we could indulge our ranty selves. OK, that was just me, but we all of us just let it all out.

On the plus side; this is a surprisingly quick read – most of us read it in one or two sessions. It’s also a  page turner with only one member deciding not to finish it. It is also NOT the start of a trilogy. And for most of us, that was very good news.  I noted that it might be a good introductory book for YA who don’t enjoy reading, though this was countered*.

The dream sequences were interesting. I for one could have used more dreams and more familial history.

Another book clubber noted that the author had hoped to explore that period when teenagers learn that their parents are fallible; to articulate the conflicting emotions that can arise. Which is laudable. Good intentions and all.

Oh and there was no genuine stalking behaviour across the book. At no point did the primary male character follow the protagonist, or break into her bedroom, or restrain her. This was good. Seriously, as a book club; we’ve read quite a bit of YA fiction and to say we’ve been unimpressed by the prevalence of stalking as a POSITIVE undersells it somewhat. For the most part, characters interacted with one another as peers which would have been refreshing had it been better executed.

On the other hand…the reason that this was such a quick read was because the language was very basic. There was nothing challenging whatsoever in terms of this book.

As a book club, we’ve encountered quite a few books based on ancient myths. Perhaps the best received of these was American Gods by Neil Gaiman, closely followed by The Song of Achilles by Madelaine Miller. Many of us had also read one or the other of the Joanne Harris mythical books (Rune Marks and the Gospel of Loki). We all felt that this is a particularly fertile genera of fiction at the moment and that – at their essence – they can be assessed by how well portrayed the pantheons of Gods are and well developed the characters are.

We felt like this book was on very solid ground as a concept. Egypt – long a fascination for those of us in the Western World – has gone through a period of immense political and social upheaval. That’s before you take into account that Egypt is now predominantly Muslim and the fascinating intersections that could have been included. At every level, we thought that this book demonstrated a considerable lack of sensitivity in failing to even acknowledge the country that the book ostensibly opens in. Without any grounding or cultural exploration; the setting and nationality felt – at best – underdeveloped and tokenistic and – at worst – completely exploitative.

Regarding how the gods are portrayed; the primary character refers to her brother as Whore-Us the entire time. That’s one of the more mature depictions.

The misfires just kept on coming. With Egyptian and Greek Gods interacting, one might have expected a huge cultural clash or exchange or ANYTHING but – aside from increasingly stereotypical and one-dimensional portrayals – no; for some reason we were denied this interesting avenue. Instead, every conclusion reached was one predicted by us within the first few chapters. Not a single unexpected event, line of dialogue or act came as a surprise to any of us.

I don’t know anything about the author. This could have been a culture that she genuinely feels a connection to, but sadly that didn’t translate onto the page. It felt like the plot was all pre-set and the culture determined later and written in afterwards. Everything about this is homogeneous, not based in any sort of specific culture. At one point a reference is made to an ancient Egyptian language. It’s not even named, which just came across as both disrespectful and lazy writing. At another point – after the plot pointlessly pulls Isodora out of Egypt and sends her to San Francisco FOR NO REAL REASON WHATSOEVER – a character named Taylor comments to her that she looks as though pulled out of an exhibition and how Taylor wishes that she had a culture. We settled on the phrase othering and fetishizing that to boot over outright racism.

Isadora is beyond flimsy as a character. It is possible to have characters that – through no fault of their own – are oblivious to what is going on around them. We didn’t think that was the case here. Isodora is a character that it was difficult to made anything of. Her lack of maturity, inability to interact with her family in an honest or open way and selfishness might have felt like a realistic portrayal of a teenager if it weren’t coupled with an arrogant fatalism, utter entitlement and not-very-brightness. She never really sees what’s going on around her which was irritating as most of us figured out the Big Bad on the page that they were introduced. All together though, she is a pill.

One of the book clubbers positioned that Isadora’s parents might not have been well developed characters because Isadora never truly understood their motives. Others felt that the clubber was searching for a nuance that the writing did not suggest likely.

And for the record; museums – especially ones with famous priceless Egyptian artifacts arriving – don’t give keys to 16 year olds. Ever. And they don’t hold exhibitions like that either.

At least one of us felt that if she had read it at 13 years, she’d have enjoyed it. The thing is; I know that this reads harsh. We were harsh, but we were also genuinely frustrated. There were so many potentially great ideas briefly brought up and then discarded – many of them would have made really good tales. And as I mentioned above, we do actually read a lot of books written for younger readers (because we clearly do HUGE amounts of research for book club, many of us don’t realise that it’s YA until we’ve started it) and we take that into account when it comes to scoring. Also, we have an inherent respect for anyone who puts pen to page and actually creates something – we always have. That might not have been so clear in the write up but in person we did acknowledge that a few times (and we were in high spirits and good moods – all coming from a good place).

This isn’t an ‘evil’ book; it’s not even a terrible one. It’s merely bland. A beach read that you pick up, finish and forget all in a day.

*It was countered by saying that foisting this book on a YA might convince them never to read another book again. Which is harsh. But probably fair.

SCORE

3.25 out of 10

For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub

The Pub can be contacted on @WhiteSwanLeeds

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

LBC White Swan – Wool Review

LBC White Swan

Date:  Sunday 11th of October 2015
Time:  6:00pm
Address: Swan Street, Leeds

Discussing:

WOOL

HUGH HOWEY

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Huge thanks to Riley @McCluskry for providing this excellent write up! A long time book clubber; this is his first write up! Welcome to the team, Riley!

The BLURB (AMAZON)

WHAT WOULD YOU DO
If the world outside was deadly,
And the air you breathed could kill.

AND YOU LIVED IN A PLACE
Where every birth required a death
And the choices you made could save lives – or destroy them.

THIS IS JULES’ STORY

THIS IS THE WORLD OF WOOL

woolSome of us approached ‘Wool’ with caution, put on the defensive by the sticker on the front, insisting that if you loved the Hunger Games, you’ll love this. Such marketing is, of course, a common thing in our society. After all, how many Da Vinci code inspired book covers have we seen on shelves? The statement on the front of the book tells us what we have in store for us, and such claims usually fall flat when we realize this book doesn’t compare to The Hunger Games at all (if you’re into that sort of thing!) This time, however, the fears were unnecessary. Wool stands in its own right, perhaps containing several of the so-called typical markers of traditional dystopian fiction while managing to bring its own strengths to the table.
Though this wasn’t Howey’s debut novel, we decided it had the same sort of feel, as though pieces of his style were still being developed. It felt as though he had a checklist of things he wanted to include and was so determined to stick to it that some pieces felt under-developed or shoe-horned in, a throwaway sentence without much purpose in the grand scheme of things. These downfalls though we mostly agreed were outweighed by the book’s strengths.
Wool offers a good pace, keeping the reader turning the pages in eager anticipation of what will happen next. The worldbuilding, though slight in some places (hey, there are another two books in the trilogy to get into that with, you know!) gives us the picture we need in order to understand where these characters are coming from, and the characters themselves are gripping and fleshed out, free of cliches and managing to avoid the dreaded ‘strong woman’ stereotype – that character who mouths off and is good in a fight but isn’t allowed to be rounded or vulnerable. Our main protagonist (and our third, but we’ll get to that later!) is no such archetype. She’s realistic and has believeable flaws to match her strengths. There is no chosen one in this narrative. The characters are defined by the choices they make and the chain of events that put them in these positions, and the story is stronger because of it.
We agreed that the book had a very American and political feeling to it. The kind of anxiety that comes in the wake of 9/11, of a shady government being so afraid of collapse that they force it into tiny boxes, controlling its development and structure, outlawing the free-thinkers and those who dare to challenge the status quo. This is mostly shown through the IT department. One member joked that Howey has ‘definitely had a bad relationship with IT middle management in his time.’ However, what we also noted was that although we side with our protagonist and her goals, we found that the government’s fears and anxieties came from a real place. Some of the other silos (spoiler alert!) have collapsed because of attempted rebellions, because people tried to challenge the very status quo that was put in place to supposedly protect them, and the entire silo paid for it with their lives. The distrust of government is a strong theme throughout the book, and in a candid conversation between the characters Bernard and Lukas, we agreed that good and bad aren’t so black and white in this book, and that perhaps immoral choices can be made by immoral people but with good reasons. The best villains are always the ones whose side of things you can almost understand, and that’s definitely a strength in Howey’s novel.
Another thing we found daring was that the first protagonist we meet – a man named Holston – does not last very long. In fact, we meet him almost at his end. He sets up a tension that is felt throughout the book, the attempt to uncover what the government is really up to and what secrets they’re hiding. Once Holston meets his end, we meet our second protagonist, Mayor Jahns, another female character who, like Juliette, is strong in a good way, rounded and real and interesting. We were unanimous in our affection for her and how the author made us care about her in a relatively short number of pages, some of us almost shedding a little tear for her unspoken love with her deputy, Marnes. Both meet their end and Juliette takes over for the remainder of the novel, with other chapters led by characters peripheral to her. Introducing us to a series of three very different protagonists and expecting us to care about each of them was, we agreed, a brave thing for Howey to do, but he pulled it off. It’s one of the things that makes this novel not so typical, in spite of its similarities with other dystopian fiction. Blissfully, also, our characters are not teenagers, and their love stories don’t seem like nonsensical derailment.
What we found interesting as well was the prospect of hope. The characters for the most part, we decided, don’t often move between classes. Farmers will have farmers for children. Mechanics will birth other mechanics. It’s not a hard and fast rule, and some characters to break out of these boxes, but we get the feeling these are exceptions. For the most part, this is a world where it is what it is. What you see is what you get, and maybe there isn’t rule for hope. Lukas is an oddball for looking out to the stars. He dares not only to dream, but to have a hobby. The dream is that one day, the atmosphere will allow them to go outside, and that they had better keep their society running until they get there.
Overall, this was a well-received novel, in spite of failing one reader’s hundred pages test, and several of us are planning to (or already have, damn overachivers!) read the rest of the series. Howey does what he does, and he does it well. The story may not be the most original dystopian idea in the world, but he manages to create one that we want to be in, at least in the fictional sense of things.

 

SCORE

7 out of 10

For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub

The Pub can be contacted on @WhiteSwanLeeds

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

LBC White Swan – Good Omens Write Up

LBC White Swan

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

Discussing:

GOOD OMENS

TERRY PRATCHETT AND NEIL GAIMAN

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.

[youtube https://youtu.be/UrMK59wKhSA]

SCORE

7 out of 10

For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com 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!

THE SECRET TO NOT DROWNING – Colette Snowden

THE MAN FROM PRIMROSE LANE – James Renner

HALF A KING – Jow Abercrombie

THE PINES – Blake Crouch

A CHANGE OF CLIMATE – Hilary Mantel

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

 

May Book Club meetings

LBC OUTLAWS 

6th May 2015 – I Am Pilgrim (Pilgrim #1)  – Terry Hayes

LBC WHITE SWAN 

10th May 2015 – The Owl Killers – Karen Maitland

LBC MEDUSA

13th May 2015 – Carte Blanche – Jeffrey Deaver

LBC 3 READS

16th May 2015 – Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin

LBC PUFFINS

20th May  – Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark is Rising #1) by Susan Cooper

LBC DYSTOPIA

27th May – The Girl With All The Gifts -M.R. Carey

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