Five books to read whilst watching the Tour de France

It's that time of year again, the sun is out (well most days), the Tour de France is on telly and Stockton Cycling Festival is about to hit town.

Don't Forget... there is still time to register to take part in this weekend's RideStockton event, Sunday 16th July 12-2.30pm at the Stockton Cycling Festival.

This fun family cycle ride is open to everyone and is free. The ride is on a traffic free route around the High Street and the Riverside and is a great way of getting the whole family involved in cycling. All ages and abilities are welcome. Plus there are lots of prizes up for grabs for those taking part including a signed Boardman bike!

Please pre-register for the event before  12.OOpm on Sunday.

Though no Drake could class themselves as a cyclist, as a family we love watching the Tour, and one of my favourite books is about a cycle race, so we thought we'd put together a short list of cycle related reads to keep you company whilst waiting for the Tour highlights.

The Rider - Tim Krabbe


This is one of my favourite reads. A short, but perfectly formed novel which covers, almost in real time, an amateur cycle race. Krabbe is a keen cyclist himself and brings a wry insight into the mindgame and strategy of road racing. Written in 1978, The Rider is now consider a modern classic and widely recognised as one of the best books written about the sport. If you've ever wondered what drives cyclists to compete in such punishing trials of endurance you won't find any answers here, but you will enjoy sharing the ride with Krabbe.


Le Tour de France - Serge Laget, Luke Edwards-Evans, Andy McGrath.


For the Tour obsessive - perhaps the most comprehensive guide to the Tour de France - generally considered to be the greatest test of endurance in the sporting world. Covering every race up to 2016 features, stories and shots of all the stars, plus over 300 photographs of stunning race scenery.


This Road I Ride - Juliana Buhring


A fascinating story of how Buhring, following the death of her partner, decided to cycle around the world. In 2012 Buhring cycled 18,000 miles through 19 countries in just 152 days, setting a Guinness World Record. She set off every day on her bicycle, “Pegasus”, carrying only bare essentials, not knowing where she would sleep that night. She averaged 125 miles a day. It is a remarkable feat, particularly for someone who had never really been on a bicycle before she was 30.  Buhring is a compelling but down to earth story teller, who drew inspiration for her adventure simply by being bored at wearing a suit and sitting at a desk each day.




Read more ...

Creative Writing

So, today saw the launch of our creative writing club, as part of our Easter Activities. Those who joined us did a great job of joining in and wrote some pretty cool stories using the Story Cubes for the first time.

Our warm-up activity today was to create some folding stories, and here are the end results. Given that each section is written without knowledge of the previous section they work pretty well, even if some of them are a bit on the aggressive side! Alternatively, you may want to go with the ideas of the Dr Who fan!

Thanks to everyone who joined in today, we look forward to seeing you all again soon.

NEXT MEETING 7pm WEDNESDAY 18th October in the shop

Book to be reviewed,



Image for Shoes for Anthony


This was one of those books that had lurked on our shelves very much under the radar, until a customer bought it and came back to tell us how much he'd enjoyed it. Shoes for Anthony is a wonderfully warm story set in a mining community in war-time Wales, where Anthony is the youngest son in a hard working mining family. Anthony has ambitions of going to grammar school and longs for a new pair of shoes, and is frustrated that the excitement of war is a long way away in France. But when a German aircraft crashes into their mountain, the excitement of war comes terrifyingly close to home. Emma Kennedy has drawn on her own family history of wartime experience for this story which covers themes of trust, loyalty, friendship and how the horrors of war can reach into even the remote corners of rural life. Most of us gave this a thumbs up, one or two found that it took time to get into the story, and more than a few of us guessed the plot twist in good time. We thought the ending was very satisfying after the sadness and hardship in the novel.




MY SISTER'S BONES by Nuala Ellwood

 Image for My Sister's Bones : 'A gripping rollercoaster ride of a thriller that keeps you in there right to the last page'


DADLAND by Keggie Carew

Image for Dadland : A Journey into Uncharted Territory


SWING TIME by Zadie Smith

The story follows the lives of two mixed race girls growing up in a North London council estate, and how their lives and fortunes diverge and entwine to the backdrop of a shared passion for music.

We had mixed views about this book, there are some very unpleasant characters which made for a tricky read for some, though others relish a well written unpleasant character.

The work ethic and greed culture of the 1980’s and 90’s is portrayed very well, and the novel explores the interesting juxtaposition between …?

The complex and multi-layered themes of the book: race, sexism, feminism, culture, poverty and celebrity culture, generated lots of interesting discussion including the question of what is success, and how should success be measured? And the concept of the unspoken ‘transaction’ that takes place in all relationships – everybody gets something from a relationship.

There was also a lot of discussion about what we thought might happen in the next stage of the two girls' lives.

The general opinion was a thumbs in the middle


LOST FOR WORDS by Stephanie Butland

The general consensus was that not many of us would have picked the book based on the cover, though the fact it had a bookshop on the cover was seen as a winner for some.

We also thought it seemed a bit of a light summer read at first but there was quite a lot of thought provoking stuff in there and it was quite dark and gritty in places! The idea of Loveday's tattoos was quite appealing thought we decided that the 1st sentence of Golden Hill might be a bit of an ask! Mention was made of when the 1st line was written, given the importance placed on them throughout the novel.

Generally speaking another success and thumbs up, which definitely came as a surprise to one or two of us.



Wednesday 14th June

THE AXEMAN'S JAZZ by Ray Celestin

Not a conventional crime thriller, the group were much more intrigued and immersed in by the social commentary at the heart of New Orleans. It is fascinating that someone would prefer to be seen to be "keeping someone under lock and key" than be seen to be involved with someone who was black! Some thought the characters could perhaps have been fleshed out a little more, and that there were maybe 1 or 2 too many. Similarly, some felt really immerse din New Orleans and almost like they were there, while others felt it needed more essence!

I for one was desperate to enjoy it and really get into it, but struggled (possibly because I was trying to read the crime novel and not the historical, commentary side). Mel was frustrated that the train journey was long enough for her to finish it. As with all of the books in all of the book groups we have I got to the end and didn't feel I had wasted my time and the closure from the book was quite quirky and pleasing. It hasn't put people off reading the series.

Again, overall a thumbs up, but this one was close to being sideways for the 1st time!



Wednesday 17th May







Picked after reading the quote on the front... "Imagine a cross between Bridget Jones's Diary and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". Well, we shall see!


Wednesday 19th April

Having had a book group trip to ARC to watch the film we reviewed Hidden Figures and compared and contrasted the excellent screen performances with the written word. Once again the general opinion was that it was an interesting book, if a little dry and lacking lift from the page. There were some jaw dropping extracts, not unlike the film, bringing home the struggle that all black people had and indeed have in being made to feel equal. It seemed to be in keeping with others of its type (Alan Turing: The Enigma & Travelling to Infinity) that the overriding desire to fill the book with facts takes a little away form the telling of a story, but in each case they have become excellent films. I'm not entirely sure that this ticked the box of reading a book that has been turned into a film, but I personally think this is the best type as there can be little argument about the cross-over. Maybe we can revisit this category at a later date.

I think a thumbs up for the concept, moving slightly sideways for the story-telling.



Wednesday 22nd March

Our first non-fiction choice was Winner of the WAINWRIGHT PRIZE 2016, The Outrun by Amy Liptrot. After a decade of addition Amy Liptrot returns "home" to Orkney where she discovers how the wild can restore life and renew hope. Once again, the book was generally well received, with the group enjoying the read once Amy was back on Orkney.

Another thumbs up overall from the group.




Wednesday 22nd February

As our debut novel, what better way to start than 2017 COSTA DEBUT NOVEL Winner Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. This was partly out of frustration that it beat My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal to the prize and I wanted to see what the fuss was about / whether I agreed with the judges (sorry Francis, I didn't). Set in a new-born New York in the mid 1700s the story follows Mr Smith as he arrives late one stormy night from England and his fist port of call finds him wanting to cash £1000. Can he be trusted? Will he be trusted?

It is an well-written tale, if a little wordy, with twists and intrigue from page 2 (page 1 contains a sentence that is 17 lines long. The group on the whole were fans of the book and I particularly enjoyed the discussion as it gave me a better perspective on the story and the writing (I had had to rush to finish it).

Thumbs up from the group, a good start.

Page 2 of 2