Hunting Unicorns by Bella Pollen

About the book

Maggie is a hard-working and hard-hitting American documentary maker who has just accepted a commission to make a film about the decline of the British aristocracy. This is a witty, sophisticated, romantic comedy full of candid observations on how the other half lives.

Reviewed by Denmead Reading Circle

Not universally enjoyed! A minority thought it a nice, light read – others gave up before finishing.

Star rating: **

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McCarthy's Bar by Pete McCarthy

About the book

The number 1 Irish Best Seller. Despite the many exotic places Pete McCarthy has visited, he finds that nowhere else can match the particular magic of Ireland, his mother’s homeland. In McCarthy’s Bar, his journey begins in Cork and continues along the west coast to Donegal in the north. Traveling through spectacular landscapes, but at all times obeying the rule, “never pass a bar that has your name on it,” he encounters McCarthy’s bars up and down the land, meeting fascinating people before pleading to be let out at four o’clock in the morning.

Reviewed by Bedhampton Reading Group:

It made us laugh – we compared it to other travel books we have read i.e. Into Siberia (much happier) and Bill Bryson and Tony Hawkes – they have a better reason for travelling than him. Those who have visited Ireland agreed that it is like that!! Some members found the book ‘too light’ for their taste.

Rating: ***

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Swallowing Grandma by Kate Long

About the book

Katherine Millar is eighteen and desperate to be less fat, less swotty and to have cooler friends. But most of all she wishes she had two parents, instead of one grandma, Poll. Poll is pushing seventy, half blind and utterly poisonous. She has looked after Katherine since she was a baby, when her father was killed in a car crash and her mother vanished. Poll’s ambition is for things to stay exactly the same for ever, and for Katherine never to leave their pit village of Bank Top. Katherine has other ideas, and she can feel change is coming; the omens are all around her. In the meantime, she cleans up after Poll, revises for her exams, watches daytime television and surfs the net at the library trying to find out how to be bulimic. What she doesn’t quite realize yet is that life won’t always wait for you to catch up with it.

Reviewed by Cowdray Reading Group:

Enjoyed by most – found it very lighthearted. Thought the characters were interesting – especially the way the mother’s perception was written in dark print. Compelling with great sensitivity.

Star rating: ***

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Deaf Sentence by David Lodge

About the book

When the university merged his Department of English with Linguistics, Professor Desmond Bates took early retirement, but he is not enjoying it. He misses the routine of the academic year and has lost his appetite for research. His wife Winifred’s late-flowering career goes from strength to strength, reducing his role to that of escort, while the rejuvenation of her appearance makes him uneasily conscious of the age gap between them. The monotony of his days is relieved only by wearisome journeys to London to check on his aged father who stubbornly refuses to leave the house he is patently unable to live in with safety.
But these discontents are nothing compared to the affliction of hearing loss — a constant source of domestic friction and social embarrassment, leading Desmond into mistakes, misunderstandings and follies. It might be comic for others, but for the deaf person himself, it is no joke. It is his deafness which inadvertently involves Desmond with a young woman whose wayward behaviour threatens to destabilize his life completely.

Reviewed by Winchester HIP Reading Group:

This group of hearing impaired people felt that the novel was funny and well observed – not without its flaws but an excellent representation of the problems of hearing loss.

Star rating: ****

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The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie

About the book

When Thomas Lang, a hired gunman with a soft heart, is contracted to assassinate an American industrialist, he opts instead to warn the intended victim – a good deed that doesn’t go unpunished.
Within hours Lang is butting heads with a Buddha statue, matching wits with evil billionaires, and putting his life (among other things) in the hands of a bevy of femmes fatales, whilst trying to save a beautiful lady … and prevent an international bloodbath to boot.

Reviewed by Blackwater Valley U3A

Some humorous moments at the start of the book but these tended to tail off as the plot unfolded. Very complicated plot which required some concentration to follow. Mixed reaction from members of the group.
Star rating **

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Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome

About the book

“Three Men in a Boat” is the story of three Englishman who pile into a boat with food, clothes, and a fox terrier named Montmorency and set off on the Thames to see the English countryside. “Three Men in a Boat” is a first-class comic masterpiece. As the three well-to-do upper class gentleman set out on their excursion they are beset by a series of comic mishaps.

Reviewed by Shipton Bellinger W I

Everyone enjoyed some aspect of this book, it made many laugh out loud whilst others were delighted with the Thames side descriptions. We are all ‘off’ to see Marlow.
Star rating ****

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The World's Wife by Carol Ann Duffy

About the book

That saying? Behind every famous man . . . ? From Mrs Midas to Queen Kong, from Elvis’s twin sister to Pygmalion’s bride, they’re all here, in Carol Ann Duffy’s inspired and inspirational collection, The World’s Wife. Witty and thought-provoking, this is a tongue-in-cheek, no-holds-barred look at the real movers and shakers across history, myth and legend. If you have ever wondered, for example, how exactly Darwin came up with his theory of evolution, or what, precisely, Frau Freud thought about her husband – then this is the book for you, as the wives of the great, the good, the not so good, and the legendary are given a voice in Carol Ann Duffy’s sparkling and inventive collection.

Reviewed by Milford Reading Group:

This book of poetry gave rise to much enjoyable discussion. We eventually decided the rhythm of the words/sentences was good, likewise her command of her craft was good. the idea of the subject matter – thoughts of the wife of famous men was interesting, witty and inventive but the emphasis on sex was harsh but not loving.

Star rating: **

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The Commitments by Roddy Doyle

About the book

Barrytown, Dublin, has something to sing about. The Commitments are spreading the gospel of the soul. Ably managed by Jimmy Rabbitte, brilliantly coached by Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan, their twin assault on Motown and Barrytown takes them by leaps and bounds from the parish hall to the steps of the studio door. But can The Commitments live up to their name?
The bestselling book behind the long-running West End stage show.

Reviewed by Knackered Mums Reading Group:

We’re glad we read it, and now want to watch the film and see how it compares.

Star rating: ***

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Surgically Enhanced by Pam Ayres

About the book

Her wry observations on the peculiarities of modern life will raise a smile from even the most hardened cynic. This new collection is a must-have for Pam’s many fans — and for anyone who enjoys beautifully crafted stories and poems to make you laugh and make you think.

Reviwed by  Elson Readers Reading Group:

All the female readers enjoyed it thoroughly. The token male reader thought it was sexist – we all laughed!

Star rating: ****

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The Act of Roger Murgatroyd by Gilbert Adair

The Act of Roger Murgatroyd: An Entertainment is a whodunit by Gilbert Adair first published in 2006. Set in the 1930s and written in the vein of an Agatha Christie novel, it has all the classic ingredients of a 1930s mystery and is, according to the author, “at one and the same time, a celebration, a parody and a critique not only of Agatha Christie but of the whole Golden Age of English whodunits”.

Review by Everton Reading Group:

Would have made a better play. Very light reading with no residual impact. Would have been better to read the Agatha Christie first perhaps. Everyone read it but felt it would not last in the memory.

2 stars out of 5

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