Tracks by Mike Gordon

This is Mike Gordon’s first novel, yet to be released, and I must say, well worth reading. Here is the synopsis for Tracks taken from the back cover:

The future of the surveillance society…In Boston, Global HealthCare Corporation is hoping to recover its fortunes with a new micro-chip technology which can eradicate disease – until Peter Miller, the brilliant but troubled architect of the program, quits his job and goes to work at a psychiatric hospital in London, helping develop a system to track dangerous patients. When a deadly threat to the US emerges, a covert Federal agency becomes involved, and Miller is caught in a web of lies, love, insanity and murder – and he find he’s opened the door to a frightening future.

This is not my usual type of book, but I really enjoyed Tracks. It was gripping, fast-paced and exciting. Issues of mental health, American security, future technology and religion are all addressed in this book. It is just under 300 pages long, and I read 200 pages in one go. There were no slow or boring parts in this book.

I liked the characters and the human characteristics they revealed and struggled with, such as fear, anger and instability. Gordon writes in a way that is realistic, making it easy to engage with the characters.

The ending was magnificent, I was thoroughly satisfied with the way Gordon brought it all together and was surprised at all the way it all tied together and the links between people that I did not see coming at all.

The only thing I did not like was the idea of the anti-christ and the 666 beast. I did not see the point of this strand of the story. I did not feel this was important in the story.

A really good first novel.

9/10

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

I started this book this afternoon, and finished it this evening. This is the first Alan Bennett book I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Here is the Amazon synopsis for The Uncommon Reader:

The Uncommon Reader is none other than HM the Queen who drifts accidentally into reading when her corgis stray into a mobile library parked at Buckingham Palace. She reads widely (J. R. Ackerley, Jean Genet, Ivy Compton Burnett, and the classics) and intelligently. Her reading naturally changes her world view and her relationship with people such as the oleaginous prime minister and his repellent advisers. She comes to question the prescribed order of the world, and loses patience with much that she has to do. In short, her reading is subversive. The consequence is, of course, surprising, mildly shocking and very funny.

I really enjoyed this book. I think Bennett looks at the Queen from a different point of view, like an ordinary person with a great passion, reading. He takes the time to assess how this would change her attitude and her priorities. I found myself relating to her (the Queen, I know!) as she faced people who don’t like reading and understanding how she felt when she believed jobs boring in comparison to reading.

I like how Bennett portrayed all the characters, to the common kitchen boy to the pompous prime minister and I just loved the way he assesses books and what they mean to us e.g. how they can be an extension of ourselves.

As an avid reader I found myself getting cross with people who found the books a problem, and I liked that. I enjoy a book where I get emotionally involved, and this is a book where that happened.

There were times when what I read was a tad boring, but that may be the fault of my ignorance in terms of certain books he mentioned.

A good book and a quick, enjoyable read.

8/10

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Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

This is the second novel I have read by Tracy Chevalier, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Here is the synopsis from Amazon on Girl With A Pearl Earring:

The Dutch painter Vermeer has remained one of the great enigmas of 17th-century Dutch art. While little is known of his personal life, his extraordinary paintings of natural and domestic life, with their subtle play of light and colour, have come to define the Dutch Golden Age. The mysterious portrait of the anonymous Girl with a Pearl Earring has fascinated art historians for centuries, and it is this magnetic painting that lies at the heart of Tracy Chevalier’s second novel of the same title.

Girl with a Pearl Earring centres on Vermeer’s prosperous household in Delft in the 1660s. The appointment of the quiet, perceptive heroine of the novel, the servant Griet, gradually throws the household into turmoil as Vermeer and Griet become increasingly intimate, an increasingly tense situation that culminates in her working for Vermeer as his assistant, and ultimately sitting for him as a model. Chevalier deliberately cultivates a limpid, painstakingly observed style in homage to Vermeer, and the complex domestic tensions of the Vermeer household are vividly evoked, from the jealous, vain, young wife to the wise, taciturn mother-in-law. At times the relationship between servant and master seems a little anachronistic, but Girl with a Pearl Earring does contain a final delicious twist in its tail. Chevalier acknowledges her debt to Simon Schama’s classic study of the Dutch Golden Age, The Embarrassment of Riches, and the novel comes hard on the heels of Deborah Moggach’s similar tale of domestic intrigue behind the easel of 17th-century Dutch painting, Tulip Fever.

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a fascinating piece of speculative historical fiction, but how much more can novelists extract from the Dutch Golden Age? –Jerry Brotton –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

I really enjoyed this book. It was fast-paced and gripping. There were no boring parts and I read this book so quickly.

Chevalier’s descriptions were amazing. I could easily picture the marketplace and the eight-tipped star, as well as the house the Vermeer’s lived in and his studio. The book was written in a way that made me feel like I was there watching the events unfold before my very eyes.

There were characters I liked, such as Pieter the son. I loved how he sought out Griet and never gave up. And characters I disliked, such as van Ruijven who believed he could have whatever he wanted because he was rich. I found myself getting angry at him as I read the book, which is good, as a book should spark emotions in the reader.

My only complaint was the ending – it was a little abrupt for my liking. I still have questions that I would have liked answered, but with the ending as it is, that won’t happen.

This was a quick, enjoyable read.

9/10

Thank God It’s Monday by Mark Greene

This is a Christian book about work. Greene raises issues for both the employer and the employee. It is not a long book, only 159 pages and is fast-paced. It did not take me long to read it. Greene talks about how we are around colleagues and our boss. He explains how power and authority is God-given, but the choices made are not from God. He made me think how I relate to the people I work with, how much I know about them and care about them, and how well I work. Employment is something we all have to experience, and this is a good little book which will help me be more positive and shine in the workplace. If you are struggling at work it may be worth reading this gem as it will refocus your thinking and maybe help with your grievances.

8/10

Leading With Billy Graham by Jay Dennis

I have never come across the author Jay Dennis before but we are often being encouraged to read biographies of leading and influential Christian’s, so when I saw Leading With Billy Graham, T.W. Wilson’s biography, I thought I would give it a go, and on the whole it is a good, useful book.

Amazon synopsis:

Now available in trade paper, “Leading with Billy Graham” will help readers discover a new way to lead – from the background. Many Christians who want to impact the world mistakenly assume that influence belongs only to the front-man. But the life of T. W. Wilson proves otherwise. As Billy Graham’s closest friend and longtime personal assistant, T. W. Wilson turned his own valuable leadership skills to the task of supporting Billy and ended up influencing thousands of lives both directly and indirectly. His life is an inspiring testimony to the power of “next-level” servanthood to maximize the power of the church for the twenty-first century. Filled with interviews and stories from many of Billy Graham’s associates and eight pages of photographs, this book offers a fascinating look inside the most successful evangelistic ministry of modern times as well as an inspiring blueprint for purposeful servant-leadership.

Overall, this is a good book. Dennis retraces Wilson’s life as he serves God and helps Billy Graham in his ministry. Dennis teaches how to be a next-level influencer – someone who is there helping people and doing God’s work, but without recognition. I found a lot of this teaching helpful and have already put some into practice, such as daily Bible reading and sorting out being accountable to someone.

Dennis explores Wilson’s life well through interviews and extracts, however, I sometimes got lost and didn’t understand where the story fitted in with what Dennis was saying.

It is not a long book, 200 pages, but there were times when I felt the book dragged a bit and Dennis seemed to repeat himself a little.

7/10 – it was a helpful and interesting book, but not the easiest to read

Humble Pie (Quick Reads) by Gordon Ramsay

I have just finished Humble Pie (Quick Reads) by Gordon Ramsay

 

Amazon synopsis:

Everyone thinks they know the real Gordon Ramsay: rude, loud, driven, stubborn. But this is his real story! In this fast-paced, bite-sized edition of his bestselling autobiography Ramsay tells the real story of how he became the world’s most famous and infamous chef: his difficult childhood, his brother’s heroin addiction, his failed first career as a footballer, his fanatical pursuit of gastronomic perfection and his TV persona – all the things that have made him the celebrated culinary talent and media powerhouse that he is today. Gordon talks frankly about: / his tough childhood: his father’s alcoholism and violence and the effects on his relationships with his mother and siblings / his first career as a footballer: how the whole family moved to Scotland when he was signed by Glasgow Rangers at the age of fifteen, and how he coped when his career was over due to injury just three years later / his brother’s heroin addiction. / Gordon’s early career: learning his trade in Paris and London; how his career developed from there: his time in Paris under Albert Roux and his seven Michelin-starred restaurants./ kitchen life: Gordon spills the beans about life behind the kitchen door, and how a restaurant kitchen is run in Anthony Bourdain-style.

/ and how he copes with the impact of fame on himself and his family: his television career, the rapacious tabloids, and his own drive for success.

I was a bit surprised by this book. I had no idea what to expect, and I knew nothing about Gordon Ramsay at all. He is very open and honest about his childhood, which seemed horrible, experiencing domestic violence and poverty. However, he does not dwell on the issue to gain sympathy. He is honest and then moves on the story. His rise to fame wasn’t easy but he is someone who has worked very hard, and often for no pay, to get to where he is today.

 

He explained restaurant ratings well, and he has broken a few records. I had no idea how many restaurants he owns, but he has a little empire it seems. He is honest and open, he gives his opinion about what he likes, how he works, what he wants in his kitchen and he defends his friends, such as the Beckham’s.

 

Having read this and seen how much blood, sweat and tears have gone into making him, I have a lot more respect for him. He has come from nothing to having restaurants and media success all over the world, quite an achievement.

 

This was a Quick Read so was only 83 pages. I didn’t feel I missed out not reading the longer version though, this was detailed, fast paced and easy to read.

 

My only complaint would be his bad language, which does some through in the book. However, that isn’t really a surprise!

 

A good read

8/10

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

What a lovely book. Another Jodi Picoult book, My Sister’s Keeper was not a let down at all.

Amazon synopsis:

“A major decision about me is being made, and no ones bothered to ask the one person who most deserves it to speak her opinion.” The only reason Anna was born was to donate her cord blood cells to her older sister. And though Anna is not sick, she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since she was a child. Anna was born for this purpose, her parents tell her, which is why they love her even more. But now that she has reached an age of physical awareness, she can’t help but long for control over her own body and respite from the constant flow of her own blood seeping into her sister’s veins. And so she makes a decision that for most would be too difficult to bear, at any time and at any age. She decides to sue her parents for the rights to her own body.

I had read a few reviews that stated the reader’s did not enjoy this book, or did not like the ending, but for me, I was not let down at all. This is another tough issue that Picoult has chosen to write about, and again, she has had success.

The story follows the Fitzgerald family. Jesse has gone off the rails, Kate has leukaemia and Anna was a “designer baby” created to help Kate. Controversial topics are discussed, from being an organ donor, to parents making medical decisions for their children to acting out by arson. Picoult discusses these issues so well and sensitively, I don’t think anyone could fault her.

In terms of her medical knowledge, Picoult seems to have read up and properly researched the issue of leukaemia in different forms and was not afraid to use medical language confidently. I know very little about the disease but what was written I was able to follow.

The ending was incredibly sad, but I liked it. I think it fitted with the story perfectly. I did not guess it at all, and there were other twists in the book that although I tried to guess, I didn’t get right, and again, I was not disappointed with them. I felt they just added and enhanced the story.

My favourite character was probably Jesse, the eldest child who went off the rails. I felt I connected with him to a certain level, but that might have been because we both like fire – although him more than me – and sometimes we both just feel invisible. His acting out was for attention and his sister’s illness broke him, and that really moved me.

I recommend this book strongly.

8/10