Poems from the Northeast – Victoria Leigh Bennett

A poet’s spiritual homeland is oftentimes not exactly the same as his or her homeland by birth. This book is a book of poems composed over a lifetime lived entirely in the northeastern United States and Toronto, Canada. It features a wide range of literary and personal topics with which the author hopes to enliven, instruct without condescension, move, and above all entertain her audience. It is hoped that there is something in this book for nearly everyone, from the full-fledged poetic connoisseur to the most casual of poetry readers.

This review has been a long while in the writing because there is so much to experience in the pages of these three collected books from Vicki.  You can find more of her, always thought-provoking writings here, whilst you are waiting for this book to arrive, as you will probably want to order it.

I found this collection somewhat perplexing, every time that I read through the book I found new favourite poems, so either I am easily delighted, or the wealth of moods catered for is ‘muchos’.  I am inclined to the latter. From simple observations to the big questions of life the variety is there in abundance.

Poems from the Northeast is a delight for the reader, with many references and allusions to authors, poets, artists, and philosophers littered throughout, I had a great time hunting for them, or looking through the internet to explore names I knew but haven’t yet read.  Continue reading “Poems from the Northeast – Victoria Leigh Bennett”

The Children Who Loved Books – Peter Carnavas

Angus and Lucy love books. They have hundreds of them. But when the books are taken away, Angus and Lucy’s family soon discovers they cannot live without them. A warm and moving celebration of books and the way in which they bring us all together.

In order to get Amelia hooked on books we picked this up and it was an excellent choice! And one which I regularly congratulate us on for being great parents, purely on the strength of this.

It is easy to fall in love with The Children Who Loved Books, at its heart it’s a story that brings through the love of books and shared family bonding time. It gives the reader a warm feeling and also provides a brief experience to savour.

There is an emphasis on the theme of not needing many material possessions and decluttering which is something that is good to instil in the little ‘uns.  Speaking of which the words are very sparing and the illustrations offer enough detail without being overly done.  The cat and chicken that pop up on each page are big hit with Amelia.

Books about books are great and books about bonding over books are even better, however no review is complete without finding something to fault.  Although it’s a minor gripe I was nonetheless a bit put out by one troubling thing. Continue reading “The Children Who Loved Books – Peter Carnavas”

Stalingrad – Vasily Grossman

In April 1942, Hitler and Mussolini plan the huge offensive on the Eastern Front that will culminate in the greatest battle in human history.

Hundreds of miles away, Pyotr Vavilov receives his call-up papers and spends a final night with his wife and children in the hut that is his home. As war approaches, the Shaposhnikov family gathers for a meal: despite her age, Alexandra will soon become a refugee; Tolya will enlist in the reserves; Vera, a nurse, will fall in love with a wounded pilot; and Viktor Shtrum will receive a letter from his doomed mother which will haunt him forever.

The war will consume the lives of a huge cast of characters – lives which express Grossman’s grand themes of the nation and the individual, nature’s beauty and war’s cruelty, love and separation.

Having recently gotten back into the habit of frequenting my local library, the first book I picked up was Vasily Grossman’s – Criminally – lesser known prelude to Life and Fate, both books together were intended to be the 20th century War and Peace and I have to say they lives up to that book’s impact and legacy.

This is a version of Grossman’s book isn’t quite the same as the Russian version entitled For a Just Cause, the translator Robert Chandler has readded in parts that were originally deleted in accordance with the Stalin government’s everchanging policies.  Whether this affects the pace of the book or not I loved every page of this story.

Weighing in at almost nine hundred pages this novel is a vast panorama of voices and stories and does a wonderful job of conveying the sense of dislocation, pain and horror of World War II but also sensitively paints pictures of the lives and loves of those people caught up in those monumental events. Continue reading “Stalingrad – Vasily Grossman”

Good the be (paper) Back

How I have missed this!  Sitting down to write a blog post, talking about books, and chatting with you wonderful people.  It’s been quite a while since my last post due to changing jobs (I’m now a Recruitment Executive, helping people get apprenticeships in the automotive sector), finally moving house, then suffering the loss of internet that usually goes with such adventures, as well as other bits of life that seem to get in the way.

One of the best (but tiring) things of late has been my two hour – each-way – daily commute, as this gives me plenty of time to read, which I find easy to do on a bus at 6 am. I have read many books which will get a review in due course, including such authors as; Lionel Shriver, Stephen King, Vladimir Leskov, Edith Wharton, Emile Zola, and Vasily Grossman, to name about a third. Continue reading “Good the be (paper) Back”

Book and Beer


Having a stab at doing something a bit different on the much ignored Instagram account, and thought I would put this mildly interesting effort on here, also. There are other things I could be doing but this seems like the most important when the day tops 21 degrees.

Having had a walk around the neighbourhood, and avoiding the main roads, it’s been lovely just appreciating the bright blue skies against the surprisingly many cherry blossom trees. Waving at dogs and horses and walking up steep pot-holed streets has also been a pleasure today.

A tasty beer and a great book in this glorious weather is the other perfect pastime. Washing down Irène Némirovsky’s words with a grapefruit infused IPA helps this reader appreciate the peace of the day, contrasting perfectly with those days in France as World War Two started to take its toll as superbly depicted by one of my favourite authors.

Both book and beer are highly recommended in any weather. Plant sold seperately. As per usual for a bank holiday weekend, the weather is expected to turn miserable so shall enjoy all this whilst it lasts.

Systematic and Philosophical Theology – William Nicholls

Theology today can mean anything from reverence for the living God to the proposition that God is dead.  How has the ‘science of thinking about God’ reached this dilemma?

In modern times theology has run into that same crisis which has been induced in the whole of civilized culture by the direction of science.  The volume outlines the directions in of thought adopted by such modern theologians as Barth, Bultmann, Bonhoeffer and Tillich in the face of scientific challenge.  it reveals a liveliness and openness in modern religious thought which suggests that, whatever it may become in the future, theology is not dying.

Over the last year I have been paying attention to some famous American apologists and have come to the conclusion that they are very much like politicians in their answers to questions.  Finding Systematic and Philosophical Theology at the back of my bookcase has allowed for some more meaty theological thought instead.

The theology in question is focused on German protestantism of the first half of the 20th century, although there is some mention of Catholicism as well, when ideas converge.  All this is actually a lot more interesting than it may sound, believe it or not.

For laypeople who are reading out of general curiosity, such as myself, the first chapter is handy in summing up theology of the church upto the 19th century, before dealing in a more detailed way with 19th century German belief. Continue reading “Systematic and Philosophical Theology – William Nicholls”

Rendezvous with Literature

Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

Recently, a memory was sparked off in my head of a vast abyss, and floating in the pitchest black possible, alone,  with who knows what waiting to be discovered in its dark depths.

Thankfully – or sadly – all this was experienced between the covers of a book, the one I’m referring to is the slim volume with plenty of imagination, Arthur C. Clarke’s, wonderfully realised Rendezvous with Rama.

Rereading that particular chapter in the cold light of day didn’t have anywhere near the same impact as being cuddled up in bed, touch lamp on low, with the details of my peripheral vision suitably obscured, and reading to the soundtrack of a near all consuming silence. Continue reading “Rendezvous with Literature”

The Reacher Guy – Heather Martin

Jack Reacher is only the second of Jim Grant’s great fictional characters: the first is Lee Child himself. Heather Martin’s biography tells the story of all three.

Lee Child is the enigmatic powerhouse behind the bestselling Jack Reacher novels. With millions of devoted fans across the globe, and over a hundred million copies of his books sold in more than forty languages, he is that rarity, a writer who is lauded by critics and revered by readers. And yet curiously little has been written about the man himself.

The Reacher Guy is a compelling and authoritative portrait of the artist as a young man, refracted through the life of his fictional avatar, Jack Reacher. Through parallels drawn between Child and his literary creation, it tells the story of how a boy from Birmingham with a ferocious appetite for reading grew up to become a high-flying TV executive, before coming full circle and establishing himself as the strongest brand in publishing.

Heather Martin explores Child’s lifelong fascination with America, and shows how the Reacher novels fed and fuelled this obsession, shedding light on the opaque process of publishing a novel along the way. Drawing on her conversations and correspondence with Child over a number of years, as well as interviews with his friends, teachers and colleagues, she forensically pieces together his life, traversing back through the generations to Northern Ireland and County Durham, and following the trajectory of his extraordinary career via New York and Hollywood until the climactic moment when, in 2020, having written a continuous series of twenty-four books, he finally breaks free of his fictional creation.

Three things attracted me to this book, about an author that I have never actually read.  The price, a first chapter titled The Library, and thirdly a reference to the wonderful One Hundred years of Solitude, which I happened upon whilst flicking idly through the pages.

Despite my lack of knowledge about the author, other than seeing his many books, which are seemingly everywhere, I found this biography to be very readable, no doubt because it’s good to be nosy about someone else’s life.  it is interesting how the mundane can become rich when examined from the outside, and there is a wealth of detail here to dive into here.

Over half of the book charts Grant’s life before finding his inner (Lee) child, and whilst was good to find the origins of not only the author – an inveterate reader himself  – but also of Jack Reacher, the text does jump around a bit between times and people causing a bit of confusion at times.  This part of the book about humble and tough beginnings was interesting enough and I looked forward to reading about his writing career. Continue reading “The Reacher Guy – Heather Martin”

New Title Incoming – Bastion Academy: Malware

For those of you looking for something a bit different to add to your reading pile, this could be your bag, a steampunk sci-fi, cultivation novel.

Cultivation was a new term to me but it basically means levelling up magic, or progressing a character in some other form, and it has its roots in Taoism .

I myself will be picking up book one of the Bastion Academy series when I can, and it would be good to have your company on the journey.  In the meantime check out J. D. Astra’s shiny new WordPress blog here.

Insensitivity Readers

Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels

Holding this book in your hand, sinking back into your armchair, you will say to yourself: perhaps it will amuse me.  And after you have read this story of great misfortunes, you will no doubt dine well, blaming the author for your own insensitivity, accusing him of wild exaggeration and flights of fancy.  But rest assured: this tragedy is not a fiction. All is true.   – Honoré de Balzac, Le Père Goriot

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