#ReadingChallenge, Reading Challenge

Update 1: Book Bingo Reading Challenge by Modern Gypsy

Well today 31 March 2020 is the first check in for the Modern Gypsy Book Bingo 2020’s Reading Challenge. I went for the top row on the bingo card below. I have only managed to so far complete 4 out of the 5 categorise. I managed to read and review a book for the following categories on this row. Which are: Dystopian World, A book from Last Year’s TBR, About a Woman and finally Judged by the Cover. I have a book lined up to read for Found in Translation.

Dystopian World:

The Swords of Silence by Shaun Curry

Synopsis: Where once new ideas and beliefs were accepted, now the country’s military dictator, the Shogun, is shutting his country down to any outside influences.

Father Joaquim Martinez, who left Portugal to make Hizen Province, Japan, his home, has been tending quietly to the lives of his villagers, but everything is about to be thrown into turmoil, as the Shogun has outlawed Martinez’s beliefs. Those who won’t recant or accept banishment, face a death sentence.

With the threat of a massacre looming, and the Shogun’s samurai closing in, Father Martinez must decide, if he is willing to risk everything, to save those he has sworn to protect

My Review:

This book may not be for everyone. To enjoy it I think you will have to have some interest in Japan and it’s culture. Maybe have a little knowledge about way the country used to be run by warlords and their armies of Samurai warriors.

This book may not be for everyone. To enjoy it I think you will have to have some interest in Japan and it’s culture. Maybe have a little knowledge about way the country used to be run by warlords and their armies of Samurai warriors.

For me this is book was a very enjoyable read, I have read many a non fiction book on Japan, it’s Warlords, Samurai warriors, Geisha’s and Concubines. So this is the sort of book I enjoy reading. I did notice that this book is classed as historical fiction, which I would expect but it’s also classed as Sci fi and Fantasy. In my opinion there wasn’t really anything Sci Fi and Fantasy in the book, but this is only book one in the trilogy. So maybe the Sci Fi and Fantasy come more into play in the next two books.

I’m really looking forward to reading the next two books in the trilogy and I hope that they are out sooner rather than later, as I’m impatient to find out how the story continues.

This story is set in 1626, when Japan was under the rule of the Shogun Iemitsu who was a tyrant to his people. The story is based around the life of Father Joaquim Martinez, who left his own country of Portugal to spread the word of God. For many years he has made his home in the Japanese Province of Hizen. Where he teaches the word of God and helps the people in the village with his guidance. The only problem is that the Shogun in charge of Japan has outlawed Christianity, as he is suspicious of them and what they are teaching his people.

The village were Father Joaquim Martinez lives is very poor, the villagers spend long days outside tending the paddy fields. They even need to have their children out working in the fields, as the local warlord keeps turning up demanding more and more taxes off the villagers. If the village can’t pay in gold then they have to pay with bags or rice. If the village doesn’t supply what he demands he then brutally punishes them, if any of the villagers speak out he has them killed.

One afternoon the warlord turns up unexpectedly. While Father Joaquim Martinez is out in the fields helping to gather in the rice, as the villagers are falling further and further behind with what the warlord is expecting from them. The warlord notices that some of the villagers are running back to the village instead of coming to see him. So he sends his Samurai to bring all of the villagers to him.

This is when he finds out that the villagers have a priest living amongst them. With this finding he told his Samurai to tear down every dwelling and bring everyone to him. They found that some of the parents had hidden their children, but they also find the other two Christians. So he orders the village to be burnt down and he, ties up the villagers in a sort of chain gang and walks them to the capital.

The treatment of the villagers becomes worse and worse on the long journey. If anyone fell or complained they would be beaten, it didn’t matter how old or how young you were. Some of the elderly and some of the very young struggled, but their parents and families couldn’t do anything to help them. The only comfort the villagers could get were the words spoken by Father Joaquim Martinez.

Father Joaquim Martinez did all he could to stand up for the people of the village, but it all fell on deaf ears or they were punished even more. Once they got to their destination and the warlord spoke with the powers that be he decided that he would split the women and children from the men and that he himself would escort the men to the Norther Island of Japan and gift the Priest, the other Christians and the men folk to the Shogun Iemitsu. As he knew that Shogun Iemitsu would especially enjoy torturing the Priest.

So the women and children were left behind to be tortured as they wanted them to renounce their Christianity. While the warlord and his Samurai marched the men to the north. The journey was long and arduous and very dangerous for the prisoners.

They eventually meet Shogun Iemitsu and Father Joaquim Martinez does everything he can to protect the villagers and himself. He manages to strike a deal with Shogun Iemitsu if he and his two other fellow Christians manage to fight his most esteemed Samurai worriers. Who will win? What will become of the villagers? That is for you to find out.

I’ve already said this is a very good book and I’m looking forward to the next two. Shaun Curry the author knows his stuff when it comes to the history and culture of Japan. The way he has written this book he has brought Japaneses history to life.

Pages: 352, Publication Date: 25 February 2020, My Rating: 

A Book from Last Years TBR:

Mix Tape by Jane Sanderson

You never forget the one that got away. But what if ‘what could have been’ is still to come?

Daniel was the first boy to make Alison a mix tape.

But that was years ago and Ali hasn’t thought about him in a very long time. Even if she had, she might not have called him ‘the one that got away’; she’d been the one to run away, after all.

Then Dan’s name pops up on her phone, with a link to a song from their shared past.

For two blissful minutes, Alison is no longer an adult in Adelaide with temperamental daughters; she is sixteen in Sheffield, dancing in her too-tight jeans. She cannot help but respond in kind.

And so begins a new mix tape.

Ali and Dan exchange songs – some new, some old – across oceans and time zones, across a lifetime of different experiences, until one of them breaks the rules and sends a message that will change everything…

Because what if ‘what could have been’ is still to come?

My Review:

I have to say that I didn’t really enjoy this book. From the synopsis it seemed as though it was just the type of book I’d like to read. I found it quite slow, with lots of references to some obscure songs I hadn’t heard of from the 70’s & 80’s. I looked up most of them to see if they were song I knew, but didn’t recognise the artists or titles. Witch surprised me with being a child growing up during these two decades.

The parts of the book that I did enjoy the most were of Alison’s life as a teenager growing up in Sheffield. Even though she had a very bad home life, you could really imagine what life was like during this time when Sheffield still had it’s steel works.

Alison Connor lives with her brother Peter and their alcoholic and sometimes abusive mother Catherine. Peter and Alison took it in turns to watch out for their mother when she was at home. Making sure that she didn’t burn the house down or hurt herself while drunk. Alison never let anyone know what her family life or lack of it was like, she kept that to herself.

Alison escaped from her unhappy home life by spending time Daniel Lawrence. He was 18 years old and she was 16. He lived in a better part of Sheffield to where she lived. In fact she never told Daniel where she lived and she never ever let him accompany her home on the night bus.

In fact Alison spent as much time as she could around at Daniel’s house, even though they didn’t go to the same school. She would go around after school and do her homework there. She got on really well with Daniel’s siblings and his father treated her as though she was one of his own children. His mother though was a different matter. She was worried what troubles and heartache she would bring her youngest son.

Alison and Daniel have a strong connection with each other, which is only enhanced by their love and passion for music. The only difference between them when it comes to music is that Daniel listens to songs randomly. Where Alison will only listen to the music in the order of the album that the artists put the songs. So one day he gave her a mix tape of the first and last song from some of his favourite albums.

One day something happens within Alison’s family, which changed her life forever. Her brother had already told her to leave the family home and go anywhere she wanted as long as it wasn’t Sheffield. He’d already made her get her passport a few years before, without her realising why. Plus he’d been secretly saving up runaway money for her. Alison said that she wouldn’t leave but after the events of the day when things changed. She knew her brother was right. She had no other option but to leave, so she packed a small bag of essentials and left a note telling her brother that she loved him.

Alison went travelling around parts of Europe when she met her now husband Michael McCormack. He is Australian and comes from North Adelaide which is where they both settled down and raised their two daughters Thea and Stella. Michael comes from a well to do family who own a sheep station that has been in the family for generations. Instead of going in to the family business though Michael had become a Paediatrician, and Alison now called Ali by everyone as her husband shortened her name. Has become an international best selling author.

All these years later Daniel finds out that Ali Connor is an international best selling author after his mother bought her book (Tell the Story, Sing the Song), as a Christmas present for his partner Katelin. This sets Daniel on an internet search trying to find out all he can on Ali, when he comes across her on social media, and where he started to follow her. He wanted to send her a message but couldn’t find the words, so instead he sends a link to a song that told her what he couldn’t say in his own words.

Over the course of a few months Ali and Daniel keep sending each other links to song that have meaning to both of them. Which is bringing back old memories and feelings.

Daniel goes to China for work and he decides to go on to Adelaide to see Ali to see if there really is something more between them than just the music. Will Daniel or Alison break up there families so they can finally be together? Or will it end up in heartbreak again.

Pages: 416, Publication Date: 23 January 2020, My Rating: 

About a Woman:

Big Girl Small Town by Michelle Gallen

Synopsis: Routine makes Majella’s world small but change is about to make it a whole lot bigger.

*Stuff Majella knows*
-God doesn’t punish men with baldness for wearing ladies’ knickers
-Banana-flavoured condoms taste the same as nutrition shakes
-Not everyone gets a volley of gunshots over their grave as they are being lowered into the ground

*Stuff Majella doesn’t know*
-That she is autistic
-Why her ma drinks
-Where her da is

Other people find Majella odd. She keeps herself to herself, she doesn’t like gossip and she isn’t interested in knowing her neighbours’ business. But suddenly everyone in the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up wants to know all about hers.

Since her da disappeared during the Troubles, Majella has tried to live a quiet life with her alcoholic mother. She works in the local chip shop (Monday-Saturday, Sunday off), wears the same clothes every day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, nuked in the microwave) and binge watches Dallas (the best show ever aired on TV) from the safety of her single bed. She has no friends and no boyfriend and Majella thinks things are better that way.

But Majella’s safe and predictable existence is shattered when her grandmother dies and as much as she wants things to go back to normal, Majella comes to realise that maybe there is more to life. And it might just be that from tragedy comes Majella’s one chance at escape.

My Review:

This book really isn’t what I expected. When I first started to read it I enjoyed it and it made me laugh, as the main character Majella has a long list of things she doesn’t like about life. The more I read the book the more monotonous it became. However it wasn’t until I came to write this review and reread the synopsis. That I realised the main character Majella is autistic which changed my viewpoint of this book a little bit. This explains the monotony of each day as autistic people like routine and don’t cope well with a change to their routine.

The most interesting thing in the book for me was learning a bit more about what it was like growing up in a small town in Northern Ireland near the boarder to Southern Ireland during the troubles.

Majella lives with her alcoholic mother in a small town in Northern Ireland. Everyday has the same routine which is basically getting up late each day, wearing the same sort of clothes. Making sure that her alcoholic mother hasn’t mistakenly taken to many Pain killers with the alcohol or hurt herself. Then she gets herself ready for work and walks to the fish and chip shop called “Salt & Battered” Where she has worked for a number of years.

Majella has a long list of things she doesn’t like and these things have numerous subcategories and they are:

  1. Small Talk, bullshit and gossip
  2. Physical Contact
  3. Noise
  4. Bright Lights
  5. Scented Stuff
  6. Cunter (Who is her the owner of the Salt & Battered and is really called Hunter)
  7. Sweating
  8. Jokes
  9. Makeup
  10. Fashion

9.1: Makeup – Nail Polish: is to heavy – weighing fingers down – looks utterly unnatural when coloured e.g. red, orange, black giving the people the appearance of wearing beetle carapaces on their fingers.

Difficult to apply, requiring practice, time and skill.

Prone to smudging during drying period

Impermanent: Cracks & flakes sometimes in hours, by always within days.

Requires chemicals during the production process and for removal.

Complete waste of money.

Big Girl Small Town by Michelle Gallen

One day things drastically change for Majella, as her grandmother is murdered. Which puts Majella right in the spotlight and everyone in the town is wanting to know her business. Majella prefers not to be noticed she’d rather people just ignored her.

This seems to make Marjella’s mother worse. As she hasn’t ever gotten over her husband disappearing when Majella was 11 years old. He was know to have dealings with the IRA and they think that’s the reason for him disappearing all those years ago. Now however with his mother being murdered people in the know have put out feelers hoping that this may make him come back. Which it doesn’t, so the only conclusion is that he is dead.

Majella, her mother and her fathers sister are all summoned to be present at the reading of her grandmothers will. This shocks them all as they didn’t even know that she’d made a will. Majella’s mum and aunt were given some money and Majella was left the farming land, the house which was in dire need of being restored just to make it habital along with the caravan. Her grandmother lived in the caravan with the house being unfit to live in. Majella’s father had started to do some repairs on the house but he lost interest when his brother was blown up by a faulty bomb he was trying to plant.

Majella’s aunt isn’t happy with only being left some money. Everyone in the town thought she would get the land and the house, seeing that her brothers were both gone. Majella knew that this would make her aunt hate her even more now , but it isn’t Majella’s fault.

On Sunday nights she always goes to the pub and has a few pint. On this particular Sunday though near to the end of the night the person who is farming her families land bought her a drink and started to try and make a deal with her about him buying the land. Majella gets angry at this and tells him off, as he’s been in the pub all night and now that she’s well oiled he comes over trying to make a deal to purchase the land.

As she’s about to leave the pub one of the other regulars asks her if she fancies anything to eat. So they go to the local Chinese and get some food. Once they have their food with them, they both get in to the guys van, and he drunkenly drives them to a deserted car park. They eat their food and then they climb into the back of the van and have sex. Majella loves sex it makes her feel good and happy. She sleeps with a few of the men in the town every now and then.

When Majella gets home later that night, she get into bed and it’s like a light has been switched on, as life has become much much clearer to her. It isn’t explained in the book how and what becomes clearer to Majalla to me that is a bit of a mystery. Even though I finally realising that the main character was autistic, it hasn’t change my view point of the book enough to warrant it any more stars. I can still only give it 2 stars.

Pages: 320. Publication Date: 20 February 2020. My Rating:

Judged by the Cover:

Staunch by Eleanor Wood

A late 30’s The Wrong Knickers meets Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Eleanor finds herself in her late 30’s on a beach in India with three old ladies, trying to ‘find herself’ and ‘discover her family history’ like some sad middle-class crisis cliché. How did she get here?

Truthfully, it could be for any one of the below reasons, if not all combined:

  • Stepmum dying/Stepdad leaving – family falling apart, subsequent psychotic break; both parents now on third marriage
  • Breaking up with J after 12 years – breaking up a whole life, a whole fucking universe – for reasons that may have been… misguided?
  • New boyfriend moving in immediately, me insisting ‘it’s not a rebound!’ even after everyone has stopped listening, being cited in his messy divorce, him being sectioned, then breaking up with me
  • Going into therapy after dating a potentially violent, certainly threatening, narcissist (the most pertinent point of which should be noted: I did not break up with him – he ghosted me)

How to address this situation? Take a trip to India with your octogenarian nan and two great aunts of course. The perfect, if somewhat unusual, distraction from Eleanor’s ongoing crisis.

But the trip offers so much more than Eleanor could ever have hoped for.

Through the vivid and worldly older women in her life, she learns what it means to be staunch in the face of true adversity.

My Review:

I have to say that I really really enjoyed this book, I didn’t realise that this book was actually a memoir. The synopsis didn’t give you the impression that it was a memoir as it’s classed as Religion, Spirituality and Travel. I don’t really read many memoirs as some of them can be a bit hit and miss for me. This memoir however had me well and truly hooked before I finished the first chapter. The way in which Eleanor Wood has written her memoirs it’s more like an easy read story. There are lots of parts in the book that I think most women can relate to. Except the constant heavy drinking and drug taking, but maybe that just because I’m slightly older than Eleanor Wood.

The other thing I enjoyed was that she told us about how even though she is white British her family are actually white Indian (even though they are classed as British). As they were some of the last colonialists to leave India after the end of the second world war, when the British partitioned India in half to make two independent states. Indian and Pakistan. This partition caused all sorts of problems as people were having pack up their homes and make the long and also very dangerous journey from one side of the country to the other. People were being killed and murdered everywhere. It was also very dangerous for Eleanor’s family while they travelled through the country with being white as everyone blamed the British for such an up-evil.

Eleanor goes to India with her grandma and her grandma’s sisters, as an escort and a younger pair of legs to help them get around. While on this holiday Eleanor goes on her own trip of self discovery. Where she looks back at past relationships, how she didn’t handle rejection and things that she did in consequence of this rejection. Some of the actions she took because of this really aren’t anything to be proud of.

The main reason they all go to India is because for her grandma and her sisters it’s probably the last time they will be able to go back to their roots and see where they came from. They share lots of stories about their lives in India and what they had to go through to leave the county because of the partition.

The thing that Eleanor takes away from these three women is that they are Staunch women. That they have gone though some very tough and frightening times, and that with everything they have gone through they come out even stronger.

Eleanor realises that she wants to be like these women, she wants to be Staunch too. I think that most women will relate a lot to this book as I think we all aspire to being Staunch women. I think while reading this book I also went on a trip of discovery myself. Such a great and captivating read.

Pages: 252, Publication Date: 19 March 2020, My Rating:

3 thoughts on “Update 1: Book Bingo Reading Challenge by Modern Gypsy”

  1. Those are some interesting books on your list! I haven’t heard of most of them. I’m quite drawn to The Swords of Silence by Shaun Curry. Have you read any of James Clavell’s books? He’s written quite a few books based in Japan, and they are an excellent view into traditional Japanese culture.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No I’ve not read any James Clavell’s books but I’ve read quite a few of Lesley Downer’s I’ve also got books by Isabel Allende & Min Jin Lee books that’s I’ve purchased but haven’t got around to. I’ll have to put James Clacell’s books on my TBR. I lover trading about Japan & China’s traditional culture.


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