Saturday, 19 December 2009

Review:- Meg ROSOFF – “How I live now”

Publ: 2004
My own copy
ISBN: 9780141380759
Genre: Young adult
Pages: 186p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** ***



What led you to pick up this book?
It was in the library book sale and the p[lot sounded interesting.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
“It would be much easier to tell this story if it were all about a chaste and perfect love between Two Children Against the World at an Extreme Time in History. But let's face it, that would be crap.” Daisy is sent from New York to England to spend a summer with cousins she has never met. They are Isaac, Edmond, Osbert and Piper. And two dogs and a goat. She's never met anyone quite like them before - and, as a dreamy English summer progresses, Daisy finds herself caught in a timeless bubble. It seems like the perfect summer. But their lives are about to explode. Falling in love is just the start of it. War breaks out - a war none of them understands, or really cares about, until it lands on their doorstep. The family is separated. The perfect summer is blown apart. Daisy's life is changed forever - and the world is too.

What did you think of the characters and style?
Amazingly good for a first novel – the characters are all so believable and vibrant and within a couple of pages one is hooked. It is advertised as being a novel for young adults but I have never been sure where the borderline comes. The vocabulary never stretches one; the number of pages is not extensive and the hero is a young adult but I don’t think that really affects who the audience is. For me it is a novel for all readers.

What did you like most about the book?

The originality of the plot.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
no

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
Didn’t do it justice.

Would I recommend it?
Yes.



Meg Rosoff was born in Boston, USA. She has worked in publishing, public relations and most recently advertising, but thinks the best job in the world would be head gardener for Regents Park. Meg lives in Highbury, North London.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Quotation

All books are divisible into two classes: the books of the hour, and the books of all time. - John Ruskin (1819-1900), British art critic and writer

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Review – Alys CLARE – “Ashes of the Elements”

Publ: 2000
My own copy
ISBN: 0312261241
Genre: Cosy historical Crime
Pages: 244p
I’ve read and enjoyed Hawkenlye mysteries before
Rating: ***** **



What led you to pick up this book?
I’ve read and enjoyed Hawkenlye mysteries before

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
In this second Hawkenlye mystery, a grove of huge oak trees in the Wealden forest is felled. Then the man who wielded the axe meets with a violent end. Abbess Helewise teams up with Josse d'Acquin to discover what really lies inside the darkness of the ancient forest.

What did you think of the characters and style?

Cosy historical crime set in the twelfth century during the reign of Richard the Lionheart.

This is a list of the Hawkenlye mysteries. I have read the two with asterisks and at least another one but I'm not sure which.
1. Fortune Like the Moon (1999)
2. Ashes of the Elements (2000) *
3. The Tavern in the Morning (2000)
4. The Chatter of the Maidens (2001)
5. The Faithful Dead (2002)
6. A Dark Night Hidden (2003)
7. Whiter Than the Lily (2004)
8. Girl in a Red Tunic (2005)
9. Heart of Ice (2006)
10. The Enchanter's Forest (2007)
11. The Paths of the Air (2008)
12. Joys of My Life (2008) *

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.

Nothing special though as a series they look quite good together.

Would I recommend it?
yes.

Alys Clare – see Joys of my Life

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Review:- Sara FRASER – “The Drowned Ones”

Publ: 2009
Pensby Library
ISBN: 978-0-7278-6854-1
Genre: Cosy historical crime
Pages: 216p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** ***



What led you to pick up this book?
It was on the new crime books shelf in the library

Describe the plot without giving anything away.

This is the third 'Constable Thomas Potts' historical mystery. It is 1827 in the town of Redditch in Worcestershire and Thomas Potts is still reluctantly battling to keep the peace, whilst living in penury in the town Lock-Up with his battle-axe of a mother. Thomas is depressed at the slow progress of his courtship of local beauty Amy Danks: without any money nor prospects, he cannot hope to marry her, and he fears that she will soon look elsewhere. Then the body of a young serving-girl is found drowned in the Tardebigge Canal, and Potts is drawn into the investigation, forced to confront the notorious 'Leggers', town outcasts who work on the barges and who, he suspects, may know something. Tom will risk his own life and reputation several times over as he carries out his reluctant role as constable.

What did you think of the characters and style?
An easy going style that keeps one interested without testing ones brain too much. Tom is a most attractive – if reluctant – hero though poor, gangly and the butt of everyone’s jokes.

What did you like most about the book?
Typical cosy historical crime with enough of an atmosphere of the 1820s to make it feel realistic.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
No. I shall be looking to find the previous two Thomas Potts adventures.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
Average.

Would I recommend it?

Yes.

Sara Fraser is a pseudonym for Roy Clews. Clews, , Royal Marines Commander, Spanish Foreign Legionnaire, Paratrooper, Merchant Seaman, Actor, Stuntman, Kibbutznik, International Tramp and Down and Out... he has been all these things and more in a roving life as colourful as any of the characters he creates for his highly successful historical novels, published in England and America. He lives in Tregaron, Cornwall.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Review – Charles DICKENS – “Tom Tiddler’s Ground”

Publ: 1861
My own copy
ISBN: 1-4069-1083-X
Genre: General Fiction
Pages: 26p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: *****

What led you to pick up this book?
I ordered it from Amazon because I had never heard it as a Dickens’ title.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
It turned out to be a strange short story – and disappointing. To start with, chapters 2-5 are missing on the basis that they weren’t written by Dickens. Not that they are really missed. The moral of this very short story is that man is by nature and obligation a gregarious animal. i think he could have led to the moral in a more Dickens-like way!

What did you think of the characters and style?
Typical Dickens style but lacking his usual skill at enthralling the reader in the plot.

Would I recommend it?
No.



Charles Dickens (1812-1870) has produced some of the most memorable writings in the English language, including such well known works as "A Christmas Carol", "Sketches by Boz", "A Tale of Two Cities", "Oliver Twist", "David Copperfield", "Great Expectations", and "The Pickwick Papers". This little tale doesn’t compare. Dickens is famous for the characters he created and his descriptions. A man of tremendous energy, he spent hours a day walking the London streets from which his characters and scenes came.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Leave Covers Alone, Please



I have complained before on a few occasions about those books which have silly stickers on their covers. I especially dislike it when the book jacket is a particularly attractive one.

All too often when you try to remove these stickers they either damage the cover or leave an unsightly circle on it.

Now I have found an even more ridiculous publishers’ trait. To print a simulated sticker directly onto the cover.  Not only did the Christine Aziz book have one but so did Audrey Niffenegger's latest.





Surely if they want to emphasise some award or other they could do the good old fashioned thing and simply print the information in small print at the bottom of the front cover. If I were a cover artist I would be so upset at having my work ruined by such silly tricks.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Review:- Audrey NIFFENEGGER – “Her Fearful Symmetry”

Publ: 2009
Pensby Library
ISBN: 9780224085618
Genre: General
Pages: 390p
Ordered from library because I loved the Time Traveller’s Wife
Rating: ***** *****



What led you to pick up this book?
The Time Traveller’s Wife was one of my favourite books of recent years so I had to read Niffenegger’s latest.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
Six years after the phenomenal success of The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger has returned with a spectacularly compelling and haunting second novel set in and around Highgate Cemetery in London.

When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt, only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers -- with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another.

The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery in London. They come to know the building's other residents. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Marjike, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. The girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbours and I musn’t tell you more...


What did you think of the characters and style?
The characters are all brilliantly described in vivid detail. They are so believable. The style –as I anticipated – was wonderful with constant interaction between the characters and plenty of thrills, excitement and romance.

What did you like most about the book?
Never knowing how it might end.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
No.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
Very pleasant and appropriate but see my grump about stickers tomorrow...

Would I recommend it?
Yes.



Audrey Niffenegger was born in 1969 in the USA. debut novel sold nearly 5 million copies worldwide and has been translated into thirty-three languages to date. She is also a widely exhibited artist. She lives in Chicago.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Is it a phone box or is it a library?




When the mobile library stopped visiting, it was a blow for the villagers of Westbury-sub-Mendip. And when they found out they could lose their beloved red phone box, there was something of an outcry. Happily a bright spark in the Somerset village (population 800) hatched a clever plan to tackle both difficulties. Why not buy the phone box and use it to set up a mini-library?

The small but perfectly formed Westbury book box was doing a brisk trade. Parish councillor Bob Dolby, who cleans and polishes the phone box/library with his wife, Lyn, beamed with pride. "It has really taken off," he said. "Turnover is rapid and there's a good range of books, everything from reference books to biographies and blockbusters."



The inside of the converted phone box/library in Westbury-sub-Mendip.

The scheme was the brainchild of resident Janet Fisher, who lives opposite the phone box. She floated the idea at a village tea party in August and the concept was accepted on the spot. So the parish council bought the box, a Giles Gilbert Scott K6 design, for £1, and Dolby screwed the four shelves into place. A local business donated a sign and a wag added a "Silence please" notice. Residents donated books to get the project going and it became an instant hit, all for an outlay of just £30.

And unlike the nearest Council library in Wells, four miles away, the phone box library is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day – and is lit at night. There is a regular check on it to see if some titles are not moving. These are then shipped on to a charity shop to keep the phone box collection fresh.

BT has received 770 applications for communities to "adopt a kiosk". So far 350 boxes have been handed to parish councils. Ideas for their afterlife have included a shower, art installations, even a toilet. Dolby said he was just pleased that a piece of street architecture in Westbury had been put to good use. "It's very pleasing that the phone box has been saved but is also being used to provide a service for the village."

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Review:- Christine AZIZ – “The Olive Readers”

Publ: 2005
My own copy
ISBN: 978-0-330-43963-3
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 340p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** ****



What led you to pick up this book?
I was attracted by the blurb which talked of an era in the future when books were banned. Anything that suggests that sort of future is of interest – and fear – to me.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
Earth, the future, and the planet is ruled by a Federation of Countries (The Olive Country, the Water Country) run by companies that have evolved out of the multinational giants today, "their corporate tentacles reaching into your politicians' pockets and sending you into a deep trance with their cheap gadgets and entertaining propaganda". There are no books, no history. Populations are subservient to the relevant company, and the Water Country subjugates all others.

Sisters Jephzat and Hephzibah live with their parents in the Olive Country. Hephzibah disappears with Water soldiers and Jephzat's parents are sent away, leaving Jephzat in a big old house that is discovered to contain a secret room filled with forbidden artefacts of enormous power.

What did you think of the characters and style?
It took me a few pages to get into this book but I am very glad I persisted. It reminded me of the futuristic novels of the middle of the twentieth century.
In terns of style, you only have to read the couple of quotations below to appreciate that Christine Aziz has a wonderful way with words.  This is a modern classixc.

What did you like most about the book?

At no stage did I feel it was unbelievable – which is really rather worrrying.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
No.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
These will form a separate posting.!!!

Would I recommend it?
Yes.

Quotations:
It started with the war, but when was that? It wasn’t a war that passed us by with faint rumblings and the smell of smoke above the hills and olive groves. It walked into our house and seduced us all, even though its cause hardly mattered to us. It was the axis upon which our memories now turn and yet, as with all wars, it solved nothing, merely shifting a heavily guarded border thirty kilometres further south. The villagers have ceased weeping for those murdered by the bands of passing soldiers, but we are still mourning for the ancient olive trees that were blasted from the earth, their wood dissolving silently in the air.
(That phrase – “It was the axis upon which our memories now turn..” really sums up any time in which people live in the era following a war.)

I wanted to gorge myself on syntax, lick words curling from the paper into my mouth, nibble daintily on alphabets as if they were sweets.

I could already smell the books’ muskiness and in my mind turned over pages with as many differing textures as a forest; pages that were brittle and fragile which had to be coaxed to turn; pages that were soft and scented, presenting their words as if they were a gift in the palm of the hand, and pages that fell open heavily of their own accord as if weighted by the importance of their message.






CHRISTINE AZIZ In 2005 Christine Aziz was selected from 46,000 hopefuls and a long list of 26 titles to become winner of the Richard & Judy/C4 'How to Get Published' competition. Her debut, The Olive Readers, was published in October 2005. Among the jobs she has held have been teacher, cleaning lady, community worker, actress, factory packer, singer and receptionist. Christine lives in Bournemouth and works as a homeopath and freelance journalist.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Review:- Susanna GREGORY – “A Bone of Contention”

Publ: 1997
Pensby Library
ISBN: 0 7515 2022 5
Genre: Historical Crime
Pages: 506p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** ***



What led you to pick up this book?
I have read some Matthew Bartholomew chronicles before and thoroughly enjoy this sort of cosy historical crime. This is the third book in the series (the ones I have read have asterisks):-

Matthew Bartholomew Series
1. A Plague On Both Your Houses (1996) *
2. An Unholy Alliance (1996)
3. A Bone of Contention (1997) *
4. A Deadly Brew (1998)
5. A Wicked Deed (1999)
6. A Masterly Murder (2000)
7. An Order for Death (2001)
8. A Summer of Discontent (2002)
9. A Killer in Winter (2003)
10. The Hand of Justice (2004)
11. The Mark of a Murderer (2005)
12. The Tarnished Chalice (2006) *
13. To Kill or Cure (2007)
14. The Devil's Disciples (2008) *
15. A Vein of Deceit (2009)
16. A Killer of Pilgrims (2010)

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
In 1352, not long after the Black Death has devastated Cambridge, Matthew Bartholomew, a teacher and doctor at Michaelhouse College gets involved in trying to solve the mysterious murder of a student. Riots between townsfolk and students cause further deaths bit how many of them are simply as a result of rioting and how many are the result of someone with a deeper agenda?


What did you think of the characters and style?

Easy going and whilst it is not madly instructive about the fourteenth century the story does take one back to the atmosphere of the Cambridge of that era.

What did you like most about the book?
Matthew’s character and that of his friend and colleague Michael.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
No.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
Poor and hardly relevant to the plot.

Would I recommend it?
Yes – to any cosy historical crime enthusiast.

Susanna Gregory – see A Plague on Both Your Houses

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Quotation

Books, gentlemen, are a species of men, and introduced to them you circulate in the “very best society” that this world can furnish, without the intolerable infliction of “dressing” to go into it. In your shabbiest coat and cosiest slippers you may socially chat even with the fastidious Earl of Chesterfield, and lounging under a tree enjoy the divinest intimacy with my late lord of Verulam.
- Herman Melville (1819–1891)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Review:- Cormac McCarthy – “The Road”

Publ: 2006
My own copy
ISBN: 978-0-330-44754-6
Genre: General Fiction, Science Fiction;
Pages: 307p
Read because it has already become a classic
Rating: ***** **



What led you to pick up this book?
I decided it was about time I read this Pulitzer Prize winning novel.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
A searing, postapocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece. I must be the last person to read this bookm so perhaps a review of thr plot s fairly irrelevant. In brief, a father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. They sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.
The problem is that I found the book so depressing that I can’t give it more than 7 stars whilst recognising the brilliance of the plot and the style.

What did you think of the characters and style?
Exccellent.

What did you like most about the book?
I’m not sure it is a book one can ‘like’ in any sense of the word. Admire, enjoy (in a strange way) and find thrilling but like – No.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
The whole concept of a post-apocalyptic world is the stuff of nightmares and I would like to see if McCarthy could put his skills into a different genre.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
I can’t mention this average jacket without complaining, yet again, about the b*****y Oprah sticker!

Would I recommend it?
Yesl It’s a book one should read – but don’t expect to enjoy it.



Cormac McCarthy (born Charles McCarthy - July 20, 1933) is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels in the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres, and has also written plays and screenplays. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. He received a National Book Award in 1992 for All the Pretty Horses.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Review:- Roopa FAROOKI – “Corner Shop”

Publ: 2008
My own copy
ISBN: 978-0-330-44364-7
Genre: General
Pages: 351p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** *****



What led you to pick up this book?
The blurb – “There are only two tragedies in life. One is not getting your heart’s desire – and the other? Getting it.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
Fourteen-year-old Lucky Khanum is passionate about three things: football, Star Wars, and Portia, the girl who works in his grandfather's corner shop. In that order. While Lucky pursues his girl and his dreams of one day scoring for England, his mother Delphine, the woman who seems to have everything, fantasizes about rediscovering the freedom of her youth. But rekindling a relationship with her father-in-law Zaki is only going to end in disaster. And, as they move closer to their dreams, do they risk losing sight of what's really important?

What did you think of the characters and style?
This is one of those books that you don’t read – you live. Each character pulls at different heart strings and the brilliant plot is well matched by the easy style and so very real characters. There are some books that you just keep on holding for while after you’ve finished the last page. You know it has ended but you can’t get away from the plot.


What did you like most about the book?
The characterization, the plot, the style – what more could one want?

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
No

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
Poor – the book deserves better.

Would I recommend it?
Yes. It’s romantic, it’s funny, it’s thought-provoking, it’s very real.

Quotations:


“We are the dreamers of dreams...
We are the movers and shakers,
Of the world for ever, it seems.”
Arthur O’Shaughnessy


Would they have filled their pockets with stones, or expected that the heaviness of their heart, that the weight of their expectation, would be enough to enable them to sink into the current’s embrace.


Ah well, he reflects, in eleven years I’ll get my free bus pass and be officially too old to be called a black sheep any more, so everyone will just call me ‘eccentric’ instead. Bad old, mad old, just plain old old, eccentric Chacha Zaki.


The trouble with getting something good, he reflects, is that you get used to it, and then when you don’t have it. you miss it more than you ever enjoyed having it in the first place. You feel the loss more than you take pleasure in the possession. ‘Just like relationships,’ he says.


Quentin Crisp said something like that,’ says Delphine... ‘He said that he stopped dusting, as he discovered that the dust didn’t get any worse after a few years’.



ROOPA FAROOKI was born in Lahore in Pakistan in 1974 and brought up in London. She graduated from New college, Oxford, in 1995 and worked in advertising before turning to writing fiction. Her first novel, Bitter Sweets, was shortlisted for the Orange Award for new writers, 2007. Roopa now lives in South West France with her husband and two sons.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Review: Asne SEIERSTAD – “the Bookseller of Kabul”

Publ: 2003
My own copy
ISBN: 1-84408-047-1
Genre: Non-fiction; Afghanistan; Islam
Pages: 276pp
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** *****



What led you to pick up this book?
Any book that has books, library or bookseller in the title has to appeal to me! Add to that the prospect of learning more about the country of Afghanistan which is so much in the news.

Describe the book without giving anything away.
The Bookseller of Kabul is a non-fiction book written by Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad, about a bookseller, Shah Muhammad Rais (whose name was changed to Sultan Khan), and his family in Kabul, Afghanistan. It takes a novelistic approach, focusing on characters and the daily issues that they face.

As well as giving a historical account of events in Afghanistan as democracy is established, Seierstad focuses on the conditions of Afghan women who still live very much under the domination of men—Afghan traditions allow for polygamy and arranged marriage. She also addresses the conflict between westernization and traditional Islam, and gives an accessible account of Afghanistan's complex recent history under the rule of the USSR, the Taliban and coalition-supported democracy.

What did you like most about the book?
I enjoy learning through fiction and the next best thing is often non-fiction written as a novel as in this case,

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
No.



Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
I absolutely hate it when booksellers stick stickers on the book cover. Half the time they won’t come off without damaging the cover. Why on earth do they do that.   It is even more of a nuisance when the cover is in other ways a very good as this one by Caroline Penn is.

Would I recommend it? 
Yes.  Very much so


.

(Not so ) Totally irrelevant side note:
(Following global critical acclaim, many of the book's descriptions have been contested by Rais, who has taken the author to court in Norway for what he says is a defamation and assault on his character, family and country. Rais has published his own version of the story, Once upon a time there was a bookseller in Kabul. It was translated to both Norwegian and Brazilian Portuguese but has to find a British publisher.)

Quotations:
"You can burn my books, you can embitter my life, you can even kill me, but you cannot wipe out Afghanistan’s history.”

Six months before the Talibam fell the enormous Buddha statues in Bamiyan were blown up. They were close to twwo thousand years old and Afghanistan’s greatest cultural heritage. The dynamite was so powerful that there were no bits to gather up.

She took on the heaviest chores and little by little taught Sonya how to make Sultan’s favourite dish, showed her how he liked his clothes organised, the temperature of the water he washed in and other details that a wife should know about her husband.

One of them exclaims in a sad voice: “Do you know what is our problem? We know everything about our weapons, but we know nothing about how to use a telephone.”




Åsne SEIERSTAD (born February 10, 1970) is a Norwegian freelance journalist and writer, best known for her accounts of everyday life in war zones - most notably Kabul after 2001, Baghdad in 2003 and the ruined Grozny in 2006. She lives in Oslo and went on to write a second bestselling book about her time in Baghdad.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Review:- Ed. Jon GOWER – “A Year in a Small Country”

Publ: 1999
My own copy
ISBN: 1 85902 646 X
Genre: Diaries
Pages: 190p
I collect diaries
Rating: ***** **

What led you to pick up this book?
I collect diaries and especially ones concerning the British countryside. This si the second time I have read this one but I only did so for research purposes.

Describe the book.
The book has extracts from three modern Welsh diarists – a naturalist on the salt marshes of the Dyfi Estuary (William Condry), a hill farmer from Carmarthenshire (Patrick Dobbs) and a poet on the Lleyn Peninsula (Christine Evans). Although running from January to December, only the latter is in day by day format (which is how I like diaries to be set out), the other two simpkly summarise the events of the months. The years covered are 1996 and 1997.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
Christine Evans entries from the Lleyn Peninsula and Bardsey Island were eminently readable but the other two sections were less appetizing from my perspective.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.

OK

Would I recommend it?
There are many better country diaries.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Review: - Mary Ann Shaffer – “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”

Publ: 2008
My own copy
ISBN: 978 0 7475 8919 8
Genre: Fiction; wartime fiction;
Pages: 245p
Recommended by Nan
Rating: ***** *****



What led you to pick up this book?
Nan described this book as follows:-
“I have loved many books over the years, but I have been in love with only a few. Like an older person thinking love has passed her by, I didn't think there would be any others to add, but there you go. I'm definitely in love again with one of the most beautiful, interesting, warm, informative books I've ever read. How could I resist such a recommendation and I bought the book a while ago but have only just got around to reading it.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
Written in the form of letters this tells the story of Juliet Ashton, a successful author, whose curiosity is piqued by a letter from Guernsey in January 1946. A local man has by chance acquired a copy of a book she once owned and, in passing, mentions the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society of which he had been a member during the German Occupation. Anxious to find out more about the society, Juliet corresponds with its various members and gradually gets drawn in to being fascinated by the whole occupation and the isolation / treatment of the residents during the War. The books read by some of the club’s members feature throughout (but not overwhelmingly). Oh yes, and there’s the odd love story thrown in.

What did you think of the characters and style?
I love letters and diaries and as a fiction format it works well. Mary Anne Shaffer makes the characters so believable that one keeps having to remind oneself that whilst these people may be typical of some of the Guernsey Islanders during the War – they are fictional. I feel as though I have made friends with them thanks to Juliet.

What did you like most about the book?
I love the whole thing – there’s nothing I didn't like. I am always fond of books that are informative as well as enjoyable and this was both.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
The jacket design by David Mann adds to the book and creates just the right mood.

Would I recommend it?
Absolutely.

Quotations:
(quoting from Charles Lamb’s Letters:-) “Buz, buz, buz, bum, bum, bum, wheeze, wheeze, wheeze, fen, fen, fen, tinky, tinky, tinky, cr’annch! I shall certainly cxome to be condemned at last. I have been drinking too much for two days running. I find my moral sense in the last stage of consumption and my religion getting faint.”

(quoting from Cee Cee Meredith’s A-tramp in Guernsey:-) “The waters: azure, emerald, silver-laced, when they are not as hard and dark as a bag of nails.”

That’s what I love about reading one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you on to another book, and another bit there will lead you on to a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.

Juliet said “Well, he shouldn’t have written, ‘His eye is on the sparrow’ – what good was that? Did He stop the bird dying? Did He just say, ‘Oops’? It makes God sound like He’s off bird-watching when real people need Him.”

Men are more interesting in books than they are in real life.

My farm is a lot of work, and I did not want to spend my time reading about people who never were, doing things they never did.

...visitors said “Life goes on.” What nonsense, I thought, of course it doesn’t. It’s death that goes on; Ian is dead now and will be dead tomorrow and next year and for ever.

...a bookcase that has followed me about like a faithful dog wherever I have moved.

Apparently they sat up late talking last night. Isola doesn’t approve of small talk and believes in breaking the ice by stamping on it.




MARY ANN SHAFFER was born in 1934 in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Her jobs including being an editor, librarian and working in bookshops. She became interested in Guernsey while visiting London in 1976. she flew out to the Island and was temporarily stranded by the weather , in the process coming across a book ‘Jersey under the Jackboot’. Many years later, urged on by her own literary club, Mary Ann wrote this, her first and only novel. It has already been published in 13 countries. Sadly Mary Ann died in February 2008 and the proof reading and final publication was carried out by a niece.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Review: Murray McCAIN - “Books”

Publ: 1963
My own copy
ISBN: -
Genre: Children’s non-fiction / picture book
Pages: c20p
Came across it sorting in the loft!
Rating: ***** ****



A book I bought in 1971 in a second-hand bookshop in London and have never seen anywhere else.

It is a delightful little children’s book about books. Full of lovely quotations.


Quotations

A book is full of surprises, feelings and learning and what growing up is like and loving and all the really big things there are.

....Anyway, a book will tell you if you want to find out. The whole world is in books.

A book is like a friend because when you read a book you feel close to someone. Some books are Valentines. They seem to say I LOVE YOU.

A book is like another room, another town, or another world where someone is waiting to speak to you.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Review:- A W BOYD – “The Country diary of A Cheshire Man”

Publ: 1946 Collins
My own copy
ISBN: -
Genre: Non-fiction –Diary
Pages: 320p
I read and do research on diaires
Rating: ***** *****

What led you to pick up this book?
I read and do research on diaires – especially ones with a countryside content.

Describe the book.
This is my favourite country diary and the third time that I have read it. A W Boyd was a noted English naturalist and the diary covers the period from 1933 to 1945. Since I live in Cheshire the book is especially relevant to me and reading about agricultural practices that have gone for ever is very nostalgic. The changes in the wildlife are not so much nostalgic as sad – in most cases they reflect a loss of birdlife of enormous proportions. There are however bright spots as the book shows an increase in insects which in those days were scarce and are now quite common.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
Regrettably, although I have two copies I don’t have one with a cover. (I have now ordered another copy - this one will have a dust jacket and I am looking forward to it arriving. I am hoping that it will be in the tradition of the New Naturalist series.)

Would I recommend it?
Absolutely – to anyone interested in the countryside, Cheshire, natural history, superstitions, diaries... in fact anyone!



A.W. BOYD (1885-1959) was a countryman and naturalist, author of A Country Parish (1951) one of the famous Collins New Naturalist series. One of the last of the old-style amateur naturalists; agent of the family yarn business James Boyd & Son. A Cheshire man to his fingertips, the GIlbert White of Great Budworth.

Great field skills; among the most active pioneer bird-ringers. Original papers on the tree sparrow, greenfinch and swallow; put sewage farms and the Staffordshire lakes on the birdwatcher's map. Left vast archive of notebooks and nature diaries, all in his characteristic neat minuscule hand.

Editor of British Birds 1944-58, and a leading light of the BTO, BOU and RSPB in the 1940s and 1950s. His long-running column in Manchester Guardian resulted in The Country Diary of a Cheshire Man (1946). Master of country lore; observed ancient local customs, always raising his hat to magpies as he rode along in his high car.

Served in the Lancashire Fusiliers at Gallipoli, losing an eye and gaining an MC. The most modest of men, kind, affable and without enemies. Uncle and Mentor of James Fisher

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Review:- Dennis S Wood and Vanessa Field – “The Vincent Family Diary”

Publ: 2002
My own copy
ISBN: 1 84220 029 1
Genre: Non-fiction – Annotated Diary
Pages: 180p
I read and do research on diaires
Rating: ***** **


What led you to pick up this book?
I read and do research on diaires – especially ones with a countryside content.

Describe the book.
The years 1885 and 1886 as seen through the eyes of the Vincent family – a Victorian gentry family from near Bangor in North Wales. The original book in which it was written was given by the family’s mother to Mollie Vincent to keep and on those odd occasions when she wasn’t available some of her brothers kept it. At first it takes some getting used top because the diarists wrote in the third person but overall it was a very enjoyable read and good insight into the 1880s of the Victorian country gentry.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
A couple of good prints.

Would I recommend it?
Yes but nothing overly special.

Friday, 6 November 2009

A Jewel of a Site


There are occasions when I wish I was a woman. No, this is not a deep sex-change posting, merely a whim about the beauty of jewellery and the fact that 60 year old men don’t tend to look good in too much of it.


Lisa at Bluestalking pointed me in the direction of a fantastic reading-oriented jewellery site. If you know any woman who loves books there is a jewellery item to suit them at The Well Dressed Reader.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Review - Ellis PETERS - "The Potter's Field"

Publ: 1988
My own copy
ISBN: 978-0-7515-2733-9
Genre: Historical mystery
Pages: 229p
Rating: ***** ***


The last of the Cadfael books for me to read (though the 17th of 20 in the series). A wonderful cosy crime / mystery series set in medieval Shrewsbury in the time of King Stephen.

As an aside - the covers of one of the publications of this series is among my favourite series covers.

ELLIS PETERS see The Will and the Deed

Thursday, 29 October 2009

If You Can't Find the Book

If you can't find the book you are looking for perhaps you are in the

Quotation

Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital.
- Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), U.S. president, in a letter, Sept. 1821, to former president James Madison.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Review - Cecelia AHERN - "The Book of Tomorrow"

Publ: 2009
Pensby Library
ISBN: 978 0 00 723370 0
Genre: General Fiction; Ghost story
Pages: 320p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** **


What led you to pick up this book?
Found on the new book shelf in the libraray and I have liked each Cecelia Ahern one I have read so far.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
Tamara Goodwin has always got everything she's ever wanted. Born into a family of wealth, she grew up in a mansion with its own private beach, a wardrobe full of designer clothes, a large four poster bed complete with a luxurious bathroom en-suite. She's always lived in the here and now, never giving a second thought to tomorrow. But then suddenly her dad is gone and life for Tamara and her mother changes forever. Left with a mountain of debt, they have no choice but to sell everything they own and move to the country to live with Tamara's Uncle and Aunt. Nestled next to Kilsaney Castle, their gatehouse is a world away from Tamara's childhood. With her mother shut away with grief, and her aunt busy tending to her, Tamara is lonely and bored and longs to return to Dublin. When a travelling library passes through Kilsaney Demesne, Tamara is intrigued. She needs a distraction. Her eyes rest on a mysterious large leather bound tome locked with a gold clasp and padlock. With some help, Tamara finally manages to open the book. What she discovers within the pages takes her breath away and shakes her world to its core. Told in Cecelia's imitable style this is a mesmerising and magical story for this autumn.

What did you think of the characters and style?
Ther characters were as believabler as ever and I love the way Ahern gets into the mind of the hero or heroine of her books. One commentator commented that the Ahern books were a bit samey. I think they are each unique and great fun.

Would I recommend it?
Yes.

CECELIA AHERN – see A Place Called Here

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Quotation

It looked like the sort of book described in library catalogues as "slightly foxed", although it would be more honest to admit that it looked as though it had been badgered, wolved and possibly beared as well.
Terry Pratchett "The Light Fantastic"

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Review:- Douglas PRESTON & Lincoln CHILD – “The Wheel of Darkness”

Publ: 2007
Pensby Library
ISBN: 978-0-7528-8281- 9
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 513p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** **


What led you to pick up this book?
I fancied an easy to read thriller and the plot of this one sounmded good.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
The eighth book in the Prendergast series. FBI agent Prendergast has taken his ward Constance on a whirlwind Grand Tour, hoping to give her closure and a sense of the world that she's missed. They head to Tibet, where Pendergast intensively trained in martial arts and spiritual studies. At a remote monastery, they learn that a rare and dangerous artifact the monks have been guarding for generations has been mysteriously stolen. Pendergast agrees to take up the search. The trail leads him and Constance to the maiden voyage of the Queen Victoria, the world's largest and most luxurious passenger liner--and to an Atlantic crossing fraught with terror.

What did you think of the characters and style?
The hero is a bit like a James Bond, almost tongue in cheek. Not a set of characters to be taken seriously but good fun as thrillers go.

Would I recommend it?
Not a lot but some James Bond fans might appreciate a different hero.

DOUGLAS PRESTON was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1956, and grew up in the deadly boring suburb of Wellesley. His first job was as an editor at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. His stint at the museum resulted in his first nonfiction book, Dinosaurs in the Attic, as well as his first novel, Relic, co-authored with Lincoln Child, which was made into a movie by Paramount Pictures. Relic was followed by a string of other thrillers co-written with Child, many featuring eccentric FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast. Preston spends his free time riding horses in New Mexico and gunkholing around the Maine coast in an old lobster boat. He counts in his ancestry the poet Emily Dickinson, the newspaperman Horace Greeley, and the infamous murderer and opium addict Amasa Greenough.

LINCOLN CHILD is the coauthor, with Douglas Preston, of Relic, Riptide, The Cabinet of Curiosities, and other bestsellers. He lives with his wife and daughter in Morristown, New Jersey.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Review – Publ. Edward Arnold – “Mount Helicon”

Publ: 1922
My Copy
ISBN: -
Genre: Poetry anthology
Pages: 304p
My Mum’s school anthology of verse
Rating: ***** *****


What led you to pick up this book?
This is one of two anthologies that Mum had at school in the early 1920s and from which I learned many of the poems which I learned in my youth.

What did you like most about the book?

It brought back memories of the pride I took in learning and reciting verses – often learning a poem a day during the school summer holidays. Unlike many of the things one ‘had to do’ as a child I loved learning poems.

Would I recommend it?
It probably cannot now be found except in a fairly tatty state on some second-hand bookseller’s shelves but I think it has many of the world’s best poems in its 300 pages.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Quotation

“What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do.”

“Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included.”

                       - Alan Bennett “The Uncommon Reader”

Friday, 9 October 2009

Review:- Katherine JOHN – “A Well-deserved Murder”

Publ: 2008
Pensby Library
ISBN: 978 1906125141
Genre: Crime
Pages: 312p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** **


What led you to pick up this book?
it was on the new crime books shelf in the library and the blurb sounded good.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
This is the sixth in the Trevor Joesph series. Sergeant Peter Collins' cousin, journalist and photographer, Alan Piper, is living next door to the neighbour from Hell - a nymphomaniac called Kacy - and her apparently gay husband. She builds a deck that overlooks his patio and monitors his every movement. Under the cover of darkness she steals plants and building materials from his garden, but when his gate and gatepost disappear he calls in the police who advise him to put up a CCTV camera. Before he can do so the neighbour is murdered. Inspector Trevor Joseph and Sergeant Peter Collins find themselves wanting to look beyond the obvious suspect for a murder, which Kacy's neighbours have already christened 'justifiable homicide'.

What did you think of the characters and style?
Easy to read and uses fairly stereo-typical policemen.

What did you like most about the book?

It really was a mystery with a number of possible suspects.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
Very petty of me but I do wish authors would not use character names that have two forenames – one used as a surname. Initially my little brain finds names like Trevor Joseph hard to manage when he gets referred to by both names.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
Pretty average. Or perhaps I should say not pretty!

Would I recommend it?
Yes – a good mystery read.

KATHERINE JOHN is a pseudonym of Catrin Collier. Catrin Collier was born and brought up in Pontypridd. She worked for a while in Europe and America before returning to her native Wales. She now lives on the Gower Peninsula near Swansea, with her family.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Review - Alys CLARE – “The Joys of My Life”

Publ: 2008
Pensby Library
ISBN: 978-0-7278-6695-0
Genre: Historical mystery
Pages: 216p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** **


What led you to pick up this book?
This is the twelfth mystery in the Hawkenlye series and I have read a couple of the previous ones and enjoyed them.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
It is May 1199 and Abbess Helewise has been summoned to France by Queen Eleanor to discuss the building of a chapel at Hawkenlye Abbey. Meanwhile, her close friend Sir Josse dAcquin is on the trail of a group of mysterious knights rumoured to be devil worshippers. As Helewise heads for home, Josse follows his quarry to Chartres, where he meets the last person he expects: his former lover, Joanna. And she has grave problems of her own . . .

What did you think of the characters and style?
The Hawkenlye novels are cosy historical mystery that require little effort and are useful books for when your mind wants a rest from the more serious things in life. Having said that they are well-written and capture the atmosphere of the twelfth century quite well without putting one’s knowledge or vocabulary to the test.

What did you like most about the book?
It was simply an easy read.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
No.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
Better than some of the previous Hawkenlye ones. More atmospheric.

Would I recommend it?
Only to those who like a cosy historical mystery.

ALYS CLARE is the pseudonym of novelist Elizabeth Harris (born 1944) with some 20 published works to her name. Brought up in the countryside close to where the Hawkenlye Novels are set, she went to school in Tonbridge and later studied archaeology at the University of Kent. She lives for part of the year in Brittany, in a remote cottage deep in an ancient landscape where many past inhabitants have left their mark; on her doorstep are relics that date from the stone circles and dolmens of the Neolithic to the commanderies, chapels and ancient tracks of those infamous warrior monks, the Knights Templar. In England, Alys's study overlooks a stretch of parkland which includes a valley with a little spring. The waters of this spring are similar in colour and taste to Tunbridge Wells's famous Chalybeat Spring, and it was this that prompted Alys's setting of her fictional Hawkenlye Abbey in the very spot where her own house now stands.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Review:- Terry PRATCHETT – “Unseen Academicals”

Publ: 2009
My own copy
ISBN: 9780385609340
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 400p
Pre-ordered from Amazon
Rating: ***** *****


What led you to pick up this book?
Anything with the name Terry Pratchett on it is an automatic pre-order from Amazon for me!

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
This is the 32nd Discworld novel and one of the best yet. Football has come to the ancient city of Ankh-Morpork - not the old fashioned, grubby pushing and shoving with the occasional dead body on the pitch but the new sort with real rules. And now, the wizards of Unseen University must win a football match, without using magic, so they're in the mood for trying everything else. The prospect of the Big Match draws in a street urchin with a wonderful talent for kicking a tin can, a maker of jolly good pies, a dim but beautiful young woman with a FUTURE and the mysterious Mr Nutt. No one knows anything much about Mr Nutt, not even Mr Nutt, which worries him, too. As the match approaches these four lives are entangled and changed for ever. This is a football book like none you have ever read before - and it includes pies!

What did you think of the characters and style?
My life has few simple truths but this is one of them - There is no fantasy author as good as Terry Pratchett. His style, his ability to find humour and pathos in every situation and his ability to crack a joke are second to nine.

What did you like most about the book?
Everything.
Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
That it ended. I always have a temporary feeling of depression when I finish a Pratchett novel. I don’t want it ever to end. I could stay in Discworld (or should that be on Discworld) for ever.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
Passable but not as good as some of the earlier ones.

Would I recommend it?
Absolutely.

Quotations:

Glenda and Juliet sat side by side, rocking gently to the sway, lost in their thoughts. At least Glenda was, Juliet could get lost in half a thought, if that.

He surfaced a few inches away from the milky-blue eyes of Juliet. She did not look surprised; surprise is an instant thing, and by the time Juliet could register surprise, she generally wasn’t.

It has been said that crowds are stupid, but mostly they are simply confused, since as an eyewitness the average person is as reliable as a meringue lifejacket.

But, it was a funny thing: every day something happened that was important enough to be on the front page of the newspaper.

“the female mind is certainly a devious one, my lord.”
Vetinari looked at his secretary in surprise. “Well, of course it is. It has to deal with the male one.”

“Don’t drink that, that’s cider vinegar!”
“I’m only drinking the cider bit...”

If you wanted a job done properly, you had to do it yourself. Juliet’s version of cleanliness was next to godliness, which was to say it was erratic, past all understanding and seldom seen.


Terry PRATCHETT
– see Nation

Reading my book...

I don't know where I found this which is a shame because I would love to acknowledge it if anyone knows who created it.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Review:- Judith CUTLER – “Shadow of the Past”

Publ: 2008
Pensby Library
ISBN: 978-0-7490-7941-3
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 346p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** *****


What led you to pick up this book?
The cover; the blurb and the Reviews.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.

The body of a stranger is found in the parish of Midland Parson Tobias Campion during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Could he be the missing heir to the local estate? Tonias and his good friend the local Doctor set out to investigate. Their search for the truth behind the man’s death takes them to London and Devon but it is in his own parish that Campion feels most comfortable.

What did you think of the characters and style?

The characters are well drawn and the plot is excellent but it is the style which makes this book stand out so well from similar works in this genre. Historical novels tend to go one of two ways. The first sort use present day language and leave one never feeling the author never quite got into the era he or she is writing about. The second rely heavily on words from the era and send one to a glossary or a dictionary every few pages. Occasionally one gets a brilliant writer like Cutler who manages to use the words from that era constantly and yet the context nearly always makes the meaning clear and the flow of one’s reading is in no way interrupted This is skill!.

What did you like most about the book?
The style, the plot, the characters... in other words; the lot!

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
No.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
Appropriate.

Would I recommend it?
Yes, very much so.

Totally irrelevant side note:

I am bemused. I felt that I had come across Tobias Campion before and I was sure I had read her previous book about him – “The Keeper of Secrets”. But it is not on my reading list. Did I read it in 2007 (its year of publication) – immediately prior to starting this blog? Or did I read it more recently and fail to record it?


JUDITH CUTLER was born in the Midlands in 1946, and revels in using her birthplace, with its rich cultural life, as a background for her novels. After a long stint as an English lecturer at a run-down college of further education, Judith, a prize-winning short-story writer, has taught Creative Writing at Birmingham University, has run occasional writing course elsewhere (from a maximum security prison to an idyllic Greek island) and ministered to needy colleagues in her role as Secretary of the Crime Writers' Association.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Banned Books Week

In the USA it is Banned Books Week...

"Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education." -- Alfred Whitney Griswold, Essays on Education

"There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them. " -- Joseph Alexandrovitch Brodsky

"Don't join the book burners... Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings." -- Heinrich Heine

"To prohibit the reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves." -- Claude Adrien Helvetius, De l'Homme, Vol. I, sec. 4

"Children deprived of words become school dropouts; dropouts deprived of hope behave delinquently. Amateur censors blame delinquency on reading immoral books and magazines, when in fact, the inability to read anything is the basic trouble." -- Peter S. Jennison

"Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance." -- Lyndon Baines Johnson

" The crime of book purging is that it involves a rejection of the word. For the word is never absolute truth, but only man's frail and human effort to approach the truth. To reject the word is to reject the human search. " -- Max Lerner

"The burning of an author's books, imprisonment for an opinion's sake, has always been the tribute that an ignorant age pays to the genius of its time." -- Joseph Lewis, 'Voltaire: The Incomparable Infidel', 1929

"Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but unlike charity, it should end there." - -Clare Booth Luce

"Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it." - - Mark Twain

Quotation

Books are never far from a scholar's hands, just as songs are never far from a singer's lips. - Chinese proverb

Friday, 18 September 2009

Review – John MORTIMER – “The Anti-social Behaviour of Horace Rumpole”

Publ: 2007
Pensby Library
ISBN: 978-0-141-03064-7
Genre: Legal fiction; humour
Pages: 200p
Found by Serendipity
Rating: ***** *


What led you to pick up this book?
The delightful cover illustration by Tony Healey – a caricature of the late Leo McKern who played Rumpole so brilliantly on TV.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
A twelve year old boy is given an ASBO (an Anti-social Behaviour Order) for playing football in the street in Britain’s latest fight against major criminals. Rumpole sets out to defend the boy (and a murder suspect) whilst himself running the risk of getting and ASBO in his chambers.

What did you think of the characters and style?
This is the first Rumpole novel I have read though I watched the television series with great enjoyment years ago. Without having Rumpole’s character already fixed in my mind from Leo McKern’s brilliant performances I’m not sure how I would have viewed this. Despite all the characters being ‘over the top’ the TV makes them credible and great fun. In this book, Rumpole alone stands out as the character of any depth though She-who-must-be-obeyed tries quite hard to join him (in more ways than one).

What did you like most about the book?
Rumpole’s sarcastic ‘what I didn’t say’ asides.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?

No.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover
.
Excellent – see above.

Would I recommend it?
I would certainly recommend reading one Rum;pole novel to get the flavour and see if you like them. Personally I’d rather have Henry Cecil’s style of highlighting the absurd contradictions of the English legal system.

Totally irrelevant side note:
Restaurant and food critic Pru Leith measures the quality of food by whether it is worth the calories. I suppose a similar measure for books would be whether they are worth the time. This little volume (200pages of large print) didn’t take long but it is still a borderline case. Watching a couple of hours of the TV series would be a better use of that time.

Quotations:

‘The meeting had begun by our client refusing Bernard’s offer of a cigarette, a normal way of putting prisoners at their ease, with a long lecture on the dangers of smoking. An odd sort of attitude, I thought, from a man accused of inflicting the far greater danger of manual strangulation.’

‘The test of democracy is the tolerance shown by the majority to minority opinions.’

‘What did my darling old sheep of the Lake District say? We come into the world trailing clouds of glory and then terrible things begin to happen.’



JOHN MORTIMER (1923 - 2009) was a novelist, playwright and former practising barrister. Among his many publications were several volumes of Rumpole stories and a trilogy of political novels featuring Leslie Titmuss - a character as brilliant as Rumpole. John Mortimer received a knighthood for his services to the arts in 1998.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Review – David NORMAN – “Birds in Cheshire and Wirral”

Publ: 2008
Pensby Library
ISBN: 978-1-84631-152-9
Genre: Non-fiction - Birds, natural history
Pages: 654p
Seen in a bookshop and ordered from the library
Rating: ***** ***


What led you to pick up this book?
I’m interested in natural history, birds and the local area – this combines all three and includes maps showing the various tetrads in which each bird species has been recorded.

What did you like most about the book?

Checking which bird species could be found in my immediate area. The photos and text were fascinating though I have to confess to only skimming the text. This is really a book to keep on your bookshelves for reference.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?

Not somnething I didn't like but something I would have preferred - Many amateurs like myself are more interested in the divisions over time – i.e. over the years – rather than between winter and summer but I appreciate a comprehensive work like this is probably designed for the more serious birder than I am.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover
.
A very pleasant painting by David Quinn.

Would I recommend it?
Yes. It’s suitable for all folk interested in birds in the Cheshire area. It can be used as a comprehensive guide or for a simple flick through looking at the more interesting species.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Review - Bernard CORNWELL – “Azincourt”

Publ: 2008
Pensby Library
ISBN: 978 0 00 727122 1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 453pp plus a lot of addenda
Cornwell is one of my favourite authors
Rating: ***** *****


What led you to pick up this book?
Cornwell is one of my favourite authors. Add that to seeing the great cover in the local bookshop and this was an automatic read.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
The Battle of Agincourt was an English battle against a much larger French army in the Hundred Years' War. The battle occurred in a muddy field on Friday 25 October 1415 (Saint Crispin's Day), in northern France. Henry V led his troops into battle and actually participated in hand to hand fighting. The battle is notable for the use of the English longbow, which Henry used in very large numbers, with longbowmen forming the vast majority of his army. The battle is the centrepiece of the play Henry V, by William Shakespeare.
This novel centres around the activities of just one of those longbowmen, Nick Hook. It is the first novel to have been written about Agincourt for a hundred years and is a worthy work to hold that title.

What did you think of the characters and style?

Great characterisation and, of course, one of the best historical novelist styles in the present era. Cornwell makes it quite feasible that Hook, a common archer, interacts with the king and some of the lords of the land whilst retaining his simple attitude to life.

What did you like most about the book?
For once I’m going to say the end and not mean that insultingly! The novel itself is followed by a number of addenda – a historical note; comments on the longbow; Shakespeare’s Henry V speech; the Agincourt Carol; and a conversation between Bernard Cornwell and Mark Urban that gives an insight into the way the author’s mind worked and the reason he chose to take the novel in the direction he did.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
It finished all too soon...

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
A great piece of simple but effective artwork by Larry Rostant.

Would I recommend it?
Absolutely. An essential part of the historical fiction reader’s bookshelves.

Quotations (from the Cornwell / Urban conversation and the end note on the longbow):
“...archers are not peasants. As you said, they’re yeomen. They have a certain level of prosperity, I mean, many of them have trades. And they practise by law, there was actually a law passed that actually forbade football which seems very sensible considering how it’s turned out. Because it took people away from practising archery.”
“if you have a rifle, and you line up back-sight, fore-sight and Frenchman, pull the trigger, the world is suddenly a better place. But you can do it with the eye, right. You are aiming with the eye. With a longbow you draw it to the ear so the arrow is in fact slanting across your vision.... The arrow is pointing to his left and it was necessary to learn how to compensate for that offset. So shooting a longbow becomes an instinctive process in which the brain makes a calculation about range and offset, and that calculation only came with a lot of experience.”

Bernard CORNWELL see Sword Song
http://bookeverysixdays.blogspot.com/2007/12/bernard-cornwell-sword-song.html

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Review – Tony HILLERMAN – “The Blessing Way”

Publ: 1970
My copy – kindly given to me by Canadian Chickadee
ISBN: 978 0 06 100001 0
Genre: Crime fiction
Pages: 306p
Recommended by another blogger
Rating: ***** **


What led you to pick up this book?
Recommended by another blogger, it sounded like an unusual form of crime fiction.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
Jo Leaphorn is a Navajo Tribal Policeman and the action takes place on the Navajo Reservation. Many folk blame a supernatural killer when a young man is killed and Leaphorn finds himself in pursuit of a Wolf-Witch.

What did you think of the characters and style?

This was an eye-opener to me as I learned much about a wholly different culture which lives on in the USA. The characters and style were nothing overly special – solid and down-to-earth - but the plot was good and the setting fantastic.

What did you like most about the book?
The setting.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
No.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
OK

Would I recommend it?
Yes as a crime thriller or to anyone interested in learning about the Navajo culture.

Quotations:
“Begay had deliberately postponed thinking about this, because the Navajo Way was the Middle Way, which avoided all excesses – even of happiness.”
“But Navajos didn’t hurry. In fact, there was no words in the Navajo language for time.”



TONY HILLERMAN was born in Oklahoma in 1925. He joined the US Army in 1943 and won the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Purple Heart after being wounded. After the war he attended the University of Oklahoma and worked as a journalist, eventually becoming editor of the New Mexican. In 1963 he went to graduate school at the University of New Mexico and joined the journalism faculty there in 1966. His first Navajo mystery, The Blessing Way, was published in 1970. He died in 2008.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Review:- Anita SHREVE – “The Weight of Water”

Publ: 1997
Pensby Library
ISBN: 0 349 10911 7
Genre: General fiction
Pages: 146p
Continuing to read books by this author
Rating: ***** ***


What led you to pick up this book?
Continuing to read books by this author.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
A century after two women were murdered on a small island off the coast of New Hampshire, another woman goes to the island to shoot a photo essay about the crime. The original events and the almost equally dramatic events of the present day become intermingled as the book progresses.

What did you think of the characters and style?
Two lots of completely different characters are portrayed side-by-side as the novel progresses and the way in which the two plots are linked is – in my experience – very unusual. It doesn’t swap from one timescale to other by chapter but back and forth within the chapters – almost mirroring the thought processes of someone living their own life while researching the events of a century earlier. I found it rivetting.

What did you like most about the book?
The constant switching of the scene could have been annoying if less well done but I found it quite fascinating and compelling.

Was there anything you didn't like about the book?
No

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
Less than average. Deserved better.

Would I recommend it?
Yes.

Totally irrelevant side note:
This was a nominee for the Orange Prize for Fiction.

Quotations:
“There is no trace of the Mid-Ocean Hotel. It has passed into recorded memory, historical fact, with no life except in sentences and photographic emulsion. If all the sentences and photographs about the hotel were to be swept into the sea that surrounds Smuttynose, the Mid-Ocean – Hawthorne’s stay there, an immigrant’s abbreviated pleasantries – would cease to exist. No one can know a story’s precise reality.”

ANITA SHREVE – see “Resistance

Friday, 11 September 2009

Review:- Candace ROBB – “A Spy for the Redeemer”

Publ: 2000
My own copy
ISBN: 0 09 927797 2
Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 386p
Kindly given me by the Canadian Chickadee
Rating: ***** **


What led you to pick up this book?
Kindly given me by the Canadian Chickadee. This is the seventh Owen Archer mystery and about the fifth I have read.

Describe the plot without giving anything away.
In 1370 Owen archer is away in Wales but his attempts to get home to York are thwarted by a mysterious suicide. Meanwhile, his wife Lucie has to cope with problems at her father’s manor as well as within the apothecary that she runs.

What did you think of the characters and style?
Candace Robb qualifies as cosy historical crime and this was just the sort of book I wanted to turn to after reading a few general works of fiction. As always there was lots of mystery, intrigue, murder and adventure in this tale. The historical detail is not extensive in Candace Robb’s books but certainly enough to conjour up the world of the 14th century.

Thoughts on the book jacket / cover.
An appropriate sort of cover but compared to the Cadfael series nowhere near as good.

Would I recommend it?
Yes, especially to any fan of cosy historical fiction and medieval crime.

CANDACE ROBB
see Vigil of Spies