Reading challenge Blog 2…

I confess, I failed at the first hurdle! I couldn’t get to grips with The Silkworm – it just didn’t grab me and I found myself not reading at all rather than read it…not good! So I’ve popped it back on the shelf and will try it again another day.

BUT I will not be defeated!! I’ve got up, dusted off my bruised knees and came up with a cunning plan (…luckily of my own design and not one of Baldricks)

To get myself back in the reading mood I found a book I’ve read before but couldn’t remember – ‘Confessional‘ by Jack Higgins.

Hmmm, I have mixed feelings. It was easy to read, a simple storyline that whizzed along and which had just enough element of a cat and mouse chase to keep me interested. However, it didn’t set my world alight, I didn’t really like many of the characters and it didn’t really increase my pulse or leave me wanting to learn more. It’s not a book I’ll read again – but it did give me the push I needed to get reading again and I appreciate that!

So, being on a roll I headed over to leap a second hurdle and picked a new author and a book that had been sat on my bookshelf for several years without being opened (I know, terrible isn’t it? Worse still there’s more just like it…oh the shame!)

The book I chose was Gatekeeper by Philip Shelby. Described on the jacket as: “An international assassin is brought out of retirement for one last lethal commission…his name is the Handyman”

I had reasonable expectations that this would be a page turner for me as I love a good thriller and I was pleased to discover it was ‘not half bad’ as my nan would say. Admittedly I guessed several of the plot twists and the outcome was kinda obvious but actually I didn’t mind; It wasn’t a challenging read and to be honest I wasn’t in the mood for one of those so this was good! And I found myself becoming intrigued as to how the characters would be developed, even the slightly more minor ones, and it is often this aspect of a book that will get me hooked on a story…take Harry Potter for example; obviously the main characters are interesting etc etc but I found myself time and again coming back to the more minor characters and hoping they’d develop (and they did – hurrah!) so I could understand them better and work out what made them tick: Luna’s perceptiveness, Umbridge’s dastardly vindictive evilness (can you tell I REALLY dislike her?because I do…intensely), Neville’s honesty and bravery – they all intrigued me and hooked me into the storylines (to be honest Neville was always my favourite character from HP & The Philosophers Stone onwards and many of my favourite moments throughout the whole series are where he’s making his gentle but significant contribution).

ANYWAYS back to THIS book…this story is left wide open for a sequel or two – which I usually groan at, but in this instance I quite liked that the author didn’t just try to tie everything up neatly in a bow in one book…instead I’m left wondering what will happen next?how the ‘good guys’ will end up working together again? what will bring them to face the Handyman once more?…yeah I quite liked this book 😉

All in all I’m happy to have read a new author that’s easy to read and I’ve found another one of his books to pop on my reading list which is great!

I’m now off to read a new book but by favourite author, “Jack Reacher: The Complete Collected Short Stories…No Middle Name” by Lee Child.

Happy Reading everyone xx


The Secret Life of Bletchley Park

I’ve recently read The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay and then was lucky enough to visit Bletchley Park itself last April.

Bletchley Park is all at the same time small and unassuming whilst being imposing and awe-inspiring. This contrary impression is evident when you walk through the huts, which you can imagine damp and cramped with the breaths of the many people hard at work steaming like hot dragons puffs in the cold air, and the clacking and clunking of the Bombes so loud as to rattle the ear drums and send you slightly doolally. At the same time the grounds are beautiful with manicured lawns, a tennis court and The Mansion with its impressive library, and formal rooms which call to mind a more ‘cultured’ laid-back scene. Something which is very much supported by the personal memoirs, shared by Mr McKay, of most wonderful music recitals in the main house, chess clubs and dance societies such as the Highland Reels club which were part of life at Bletchley.

Mr McKay weaves an insightful tale about this most discrete of places with the loves, lives, fears and hopes that these extraordinary people experienced during their time at Bletchley. The men and women who worked there, fascinate me. I don’t know if it’s the secrecy and that this community of thousands kept it hush hush, the extreme conditions that they put up with in the pursuit of finding the key to win the war or the code breaking skills that these amazing people employed that I’m most intrigued by? What I liked about this book was that I was able to find out more about the actual people and from their own words.

With its independent chapter structure the story can unfold at the readers pace as it’s easy to delve in and out, here and there depending on mood and time. You can read a chapter about the social diversity of the staff one day and then wranglings over whether Bletchley was civilian or military the next. Churchill has a mention and there’s of course much content on the Enigma and codebreaking. But it is the personal accounts of life at the Park, memories from debutantes, students and service personnel, all thrown together because of their significant abilities and bound as one community forever in time, that are the central focus.

It’s a snapshot and in no way a thorough exploration of the phenomenal code breaking that took place, but it is a good introduction to Bletchley and helps to give context and ‘life’ to the Park by sharing the thoughts and feelings of those most marvellous of people who stepped up to serve.