Friday 25 December 2015


So..... it's Christmas day and I have been a bad, bad book blogger.......

It's been several months since my last proper post. Several months during which I have read MANY great books and yet I haven't posted anything on here. Slap my wrist immediately!!

In my defence I have had a very busy few months. Promotions at work have meant that I am WAY more involved in the running and management of the place. This is great, but it does mean that I have been putting in some crazy hours and making time to read takes priority over writing about making time to read. Sorry folks but that's the truth.... without the reading I don't know that I could go on, writing about it is VERY much secondary to that in my heart.

However... a new year is almost upon us; and I'm pledging to make a resolution. My resolution for 2016 is to take the time to write about my book habits at least once a week. That's a mere 52 posts, something that I have every intention of squeezing into my schedule.

So for now let us all eat, drink and be merry. We have all had a nice little heap of books as gifts I am sure now is the time to read them and we'll talk soon. ;)

Laters people.

Merry Christmas!!

Friday 28 August 2015

Asking For It - Louise O'Neill

Ok so this review contains spoilers and bad language, if you'll be offended then don't bother reading this.

Shit.... 'scuse the language, but seriously if you are offended by that then this is not a book for you to read. In fact although I would say this is something that should probably be read by both sexes at some point, if they are too young or immature to cope with my initial language here then they are too young to be given this book. This is brutal, brutally honest, totally raw and deeply upsetting at times. Apparently more than 50% of kids today have watched online porn by the time they are around twelve, a really shocking fact about modern tech-savy childhood. This online generation not only have their sexual expectations formed by what they see in online porn, but they also have access to social media, giving them the potential power to share expectations and experiences instantly. I would hope that anyone who watched the recent Channel4 programme 'Sex in Class', was as shocked as I was by the attitudes expressed by some of the teens who took part.
This new novel from Louise O'Neill tackles issues of sexual consent and the impact of social media head on, in a brutal, raw and yet believable way.
The start of the novel introduces us to Irish teenager Emma O'Donovan. At eighteen she is beautiful, fun loving, and pretty typical. She likes to get drunk with her friends, she revels in showing off her body in skimpy outfits, and loves the 'power' that her appearance gives her over both men and women in her small town. She has had sexual partners, probably more that the average teen, most of these experiences have taken place under the influence and with some she has been left a little hazy on the details of quite what has happened. In many ways she really is something of a bitch, she treats her friends pretty badly and comes across as manipulative and self centred. It becomes clear that because of her pervious flirtatious behaviour her friends don't totally trust her around their boyfriends mainly because she struggles with anyone else every being the centre of attention. However her world is turned upside down when she attends a party and a group of boys basically decide to repay every flirt and every diss they have ever perceived from her. Due to a mix of drink and drugs she loses all control after consensual sex with one of the local sports stars. Next thing she knows she comes to outside her own house, with her underwear missing and her dress covered in God-knows-what and on backwards. What happens next is one of the more shocking things I've read, and is brilliantly written. Back at school, everyone is whispering about Emma, and she has no idea why. As far as she knows she simply got drunk and got off with the wrong bloke. Everyone seems to be blowing things massively out of proportion, something that she struggles with alongside her hangover, and some unexplained bruises and soreness in intimate areas. She simply assumes that the one man she remembers having had sex with liked it rough, in fact she is so concerned that she has upset people with her drunken behaviour that she sends texts to all of her 'friends' male and female checking to see if they are ok with her. The scenario of losing time due to drunkenness is an experience that the majority of young people will have at some point, what I sincerely hope that people don't have to experience is what happens next to Emma. Her brother gets in touch to tell her just how disgusted he is with her, it seems that images of her having sex has gone viral. A new facebook page has been set up in her name, this consists of nothing but images of her passed out while a group of men and boys use her in every way they could imagine. She is shown being fucked by all of the men, being degraded, being vomited and urinated on; really disgusting acts of abuse and degradation. Everyone at school has seen these images, in fact the friends of everyone has seen them and each person seems to have commented. Emma has been totally taken apart and used. When a complaint is made to the Guards by her school, leading to rape charges against the men involved, things spiral even further out of control. Emma's initial response is to try and deny that there is a problem, she doesn't want to be a victim, she doesn't want anyone to hate her and she has such sketchy memories of events that she can hardly believe that anything has happened. The court of public opinion is quick to come down on each side, with the majority of people in the town finding it easier to label Emma as a slut, asking to be used thanks to her clothing, behaviour and use of drink and drugs, than to see they boys as abusing rapists. They are 'nice boys really, things just got out of control' that is the attitude that Emma is met with. What did she expect if she chose to act like she did? The remainder of the novel comes one year after the gang rape. It shows how the attack and impending trial has destroyed Emma and the lives of her whole family. In fact the case has torn the whole community apart; due to the unusual impact of social media in the case it has drawn national media attention and is being seen as a precedent setting case creating even more pressure on Emma and her family.
The ending is both shocking and truly upsetting. As O'Neill points out in her afterword it is also tragically common. She makes no apology for the bleakness of the writing, and nor should she. It is dreadful to read and yet deeply important that the issues of consent, sexual behaviour and use of social media be discussed by young people living in the modern world. I would not suggest that this is suitable for younger teens, but at the same time kids do need to read shocking stories like this before they think about becoming sexually active, the subject makes for a difficult and painful read but is also groundbreaking and deserves to be something that is looked at both in schools and in society in general.

Noonday - Pat Barker

The third book in the series that started with Life Class and Toby's Room, this takes the story of the love triangle that is Elinor, Paul and Kit into middle age and into the horrors of London during the Blitz. Although this is the third book in the series there seems to be enough background provided to make it possible to read this as a standalone book. I really don't think that you would appreciate the depth of story and feeling should you choose to read it in this fashion. The ghosts from the earlier books certainly haunt this one.
While I did enjoy my experience of reading this, there were times when I found aspects of the story-telling grating in the extreme. The story arc involving Bertha Mason (not Mrs Rochester, but a hugely overweight clairvoyant) was fascinating but also deeply irritating at times. These sections seemed fragmented and I found them rather confusing, a distraction from the main story. Despite this the writing covering the experience of the Blitz is brilliantly executed. The terror and confusion is captured perfectly, as well as the near-total dislocation from normal life as the city became unrecognisable.
As you'd expect from this series issues around the artistic world do play a part in this story arc, with some discussion of the role of a war artist, as well as what was considered to be 'proper' subjects for artists of box sexes. Unlike the first two books in the series though, these considerations were very much on the background, a decision that I thought made sense considering the massive and devastating events against which this is set. In many ways, despite being set in the 1940s this is still a novel of the First World War, the continuing impact of the 1914-18 war is what has shaped all of the central characters. All of their actions have to be seen against the trauma of their experiences during WWI, it is fascinating to see the first war through the eyes of characters already shaped by and earlier conflict.
Despite it's flaws this is a book to read, and a worthy and satisfying conclusion to the series; it will be interesting to see if Pat Barker's next novel will also cover issues surrounding conflict now that she has so comprehensively looked at the impact of the First World War.

The Leopard - Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa

One that had been on my to read list for quite a while and now one of the Waterstones rediscovered classics, so expect bookshop staff to extolling it's virtues throughout September. If they do, then take them up on the chance to read it, because it really does deserve it's classic status. Set in Sicily in the period just after Risorgimento, unification for those of us not up on 19th century Italian history. It focuses on the family of Fabrizio, Prince of Salina who are experiencing the social shifts within the nation. The book captures the sense of a collapsing way of life quite brilliantly, something that is usually found in novels set in the post 1918 world. The scope of the central story is really rather small, the Prince's beloved nephew, Tancredi, falls in love with the daughter if a middle class family and dashes the romantic hopes of his cousin, Fabrizio's daughter Concetta. This intimate story is set in the context of Garibaldi's invasion of Italy and the political changes that occurred afterwards. These momentous changes impact on the main story and add to the poignancy of the final scenes set in 1883 and 1910.
What raises this novel out of the ordinary are the nuanced and totally believably flawed characters each one of which is beautifully written and which are set in a location that is captured to perfection. The underlying theme of collapse and mortality runs throughout the novel with the musings of the Prince on the subject of mortality forming the backdrop to several scenes. Not wanting to spoil the ending I'll just reiterate that I found it to be very poignant and moving. The novel really is a pleasure to read and it just seems a shame that there is so little other writing by Lampedusa available to be enjoyed.

Tuesday 30 June 2015

River of Souls - Kate Rhodes

The fourth book in the Alice Quentin series and Kate Rhodes is properly into her stride. By book four the recurring characters all feel like nicely rounded individuals, with full back-stories and, as with all well written characters, the reader can have a fairly good idea how each one will react under stressful situations.
The story line of this book gets pretty stressful for all involved. One year on from a gruesome and horrific attack on the daughter of a cabinet minister, the family call in Alice Quentin to reexamine aspects of the case that were poorly investigated first time around. The victim's mother is desperate for her daughter's attacker to be found while there is still a chance that Jude, the victim, can know that justice has been served. Alice quickly comes under pressure from government aides keen to keep their up and coming minister's name out of any investigation, as well as having to deal with the trauma of interviewing Jude and confronting her horrific injuries. When other victims, all seemingly linked to the minister's family start to be found the pressure intensifies.
The POV flips between Alice and the unknown attacker, giving the reader some insight into his motivation. Just how far we can trust that he is committing the attacks as a gruesome tribute to the Thames is debatable though. Providing the reader with a wonderfully unreliable narrator is a sure way of drawing the reader in and it works brilliantly here. Certainly I thought that I had a handle on why he was committing the vicious attacks, then slowly some bits of his narrative started to fall outside of what I expected of him. I'm rather proud that I did have strong suspicions about the identity of the murderer quite a while before the big reveal. There were a few interesting red herrings thrown into the mix though that certainly made this a more interesting read. In fact the whole style really works to keep you turning the pages, and make this an exciting and unputdownable read.
Alice is a believable character, she is convincingly rounded and manages to combine empathy and tenderness with the resilience that must be necessary in her chosen profession. My one niggle with the whole book is that I found the writing about her love life to be a little grating after a while. I want her to have a background story, and want her to be a 'real' character with a personal life outside of work, but I did find some of the angst about her relationship with Burns to be a little repetitive and somewhat grating after a while. There were definitely moments where I would have preferred more development of the actual plot instead of further discussion about their abortive relationship. I'll admit that about halfway through the book, I found myself rushing through the 'relationship' bits in order to hurry back to the main story. Overall though this is a minor gripe and I would recommend these books for fans for Martina Cole or Belinda Bauer.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Reunion - Fred Uhlman

One of the most perfect books I have ever had the pleasure to read. This was recommended to me by a customer, and I had to admit that I had never heard of it at all. Being somewhat anal about such things I dislike having such total ignorance of interesting titles, so was sure to get hold of a copy as soon as possible. This is not something that I could ever regret, and I'd like to thank the customer concerned for drawing my attention to this literary gem.
The novel is the story of a brief friendship between two teenage schoolboys in early 1930's Germany. It encapsulates the shifts in this relationship in a pure and perfectly beautiful way, while also reflecting on outside events as they impact upon the two boys. The final chapters are deeply moving, and no matter how much you have read around the subject matter or about the period in question I defy you to remain unmoved by the clear and matter-of-fact way in which the narrative moves forward. As for the final paragraph, I don't know that I can remember the last time that such a simple ending devastated me so deeply. Even now, as I write this I am finding it difficult to remain composed.
This is a very short book, less than a hundred pages, and yet it's impact far outweighs it's length. I often come across people who would baulk at spending £8 on something that is this short, but I can honestly say that it is well worth every single penny and will move all but the most heartless  reader far more deeply than a longer, less perfect book could ever do. Five stars does not even begin to do this book justice.

Friday 29 May 2015

The House at the Edge of the World - Julia Rochester

A surprisingly dark look at the emotional damage that can be caused by family life. This book has some incredibly vivid depictions of teenage life in the West Country, which really draw you into this story. I have to admit that I became so lost in these gorgeous images that I almost didn't see the darker aspects creeping into the story. This story has wonderful characters Matthew is particularly lovely. Growing up in Cornwall I'm pretty sure that I met a fair few of these wonderfully drawn individuals around the village, it is clear from the brilliant detail that the author grew up in the rural west country.
 The most wonderful concept of all is Matthew's map, a painting that charts the local and personal history of Thornton with all it's myths, legends and histories. The idea of this is something like a modern day Mappa Mundi, showing time and place, fact and fiction all layered onto each other. This is an integral part of the plot, providing hidden meanings to events that the twins have lived through. This is an exceptional debut and is a book well worth losing yourself in.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Catherine, Called Birdy - Karen Cushman

When this was first released, back in 1994, I was the same age as the protagonist Catherine. It could have been expected that this would have been the kind of book I'd have jumped at, medieval setting, disgruntled young teen at the heart of it, a little bit of love, a lot of comedy; what wouldn't I have liked. Unfortunately, I missed this one, probably in part due to the fact that at thirteen I considered myself far too much of a grown up to be reading 'kids books', unless I already loved them in any case. I was reading proper adult books by then and would never have given this a chance even if I had been aware of it. Now as a more mature reader (ahem, yeah so that might mean 'damn sight older'), I am loving getting stuck in to some of the great books that are out there for kids of all ages. This really should be considered as one of the great books. I get the impression that in the States this is pretty much a classic, but here in the UK, it really is very little known, and deserves to be more widely read.
OK, so as a criticism historical accuracy is not what this book is about. To a certain extent it is there, people dress in pretty much the correct way (the odd flouting of Sumptuary laws aside), the world revolves around the cycle of church and seasonal tasks etc, however at the same time Catherine is way too kick ass and ready to stand up for herself than you would expect a thirteenth century thirteen year old to be. The fact that her father has every intention and right to marry her off to any man of HIS choosing seems to come as a massive surprise to her. Even Shakespeare had his Juliet acting all shocked when confronted with this age old truth, so we can excuse Cushman for giving her character a bit of a surprise if only to allow the idea to shock modern readers. However, Catherine is not just shocked she is also determined to do something about it. Her attempts at getting out of marriage lead to more physical violence from her father than a lot of contemporary readers would appear to be happy with, but to be honest the level of free will she is willing to show could expect a beating or two at the very least back in 1290.
Catherine really is a great character, despite the anachronistic level of talking back to her father, she really doesn't read as though a modern teen has somehow been dropped in the high middle ages. She knows the stuff she should do (marriage prospects aside that it), she gets bored sitting around doing her sewing and spinning, but wants to alleviate that boredom by working out in the fields like the village children not by doing anything that would seem out of it's time.
I've read a few criticisms that have mentioned the mere fact that this takes the form of a diary as written by a thirteenth century girl as being a reason to dismiss the book. I think these are unfair, for two reasons. Firstly it is a misconception that EVERYONE in the Middle Ages was 100% illiterate, people didn't just wake up some time around the 1700s and all suddenly know how to read and write. In fact some level of literacy was common among a large swathe of the population, from being able to read and write as we would understand it down to having the ability to read and or write individual words or phrases usually from the Bible. So the idea of a girl having the ability to read and to record her thoughts is not that ridiculous. Secondly, she goes to great lengths to explain how her favourite brother, Edward, made a point of teaching her, giving an entirely plausible reason for her to have this ability. Not only this but the story makes it entirely clear that most people won't be able to read her book, giving the ability to her brothers, the Steward and a handful of others only. So I do not think this criticism holds up to much at all.
The style here has been compared to Adrian Mole, and there certainly are some levels where this is fair, overall though it reminded me more of Georgia Nicholson from  Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging the attitude and even the preoccupations seemed similar despite the difference in time period.
This is one of those books that I am really glad to have finally read, I half wish that the thirteen year old me had discovered it twenty one years ago, but at least I've had the pleasure now and can recommend it to as many young teens as possible in the future.

Colditz, The German Viewpoint - Reinhold Eggers

Immortalised in the TV series Colditz by the character of Hauptman Ullmann Reinhold Eggers was one of the Security Officers at Kriegsgefangenenoffizierssonderlager 4C (sorry just love that word) from 1940 until it's capture by American Forces in April 1945. As an internationalist and teacher he spent the years between his release from the army in 1918 and 1933 forging links with schools and groups in the UK and France, and it was only being denounced to the new Nazi authorities that stopped these trips. On his recall to the army in 1939 his language skills made him a useful translator and led to him being posted to a POW camp at Hohnstein. The first section of this book discusses how this 'training' at Hohnstein could never have prepared him for the inveterate escape artists he would encounter in Coldirz. The rest oof the book is a reasonably chronological breakdown of the various escape attempts, as seen from the German forces attempting to stop them. It would seem that Eggers respected a good number of the would-be escapees and treated them with dignity, admittedly this is a book written by the man himself and could be seen as apologist in it's reading of events however it was edited by one of the former prisoners, and given the foreword that 'This man was our opponent, but nevertheless he earned our respect by his correct attitude, self-control and total lack of rancour despite all the harassment we gave him.' A number of former prisoners spoke for the man during his post-war trial and subsequent imprisonment by Soviet authorities, and it seems to be agreed that he really was a pretty decent individual trying to do the best he could in difficult times.
The book is well written with a huge range of material being covered, however I would recommend that some prior knowledge of events at the camp could be useful before reading this mainly because several are referred to throughout the text. It is amusing that Eggers often remained baffled by how escapes were carried out right up until he read the story from the view point of the prisoners. If you have any familiarity with the TV show, that was heavily based on Pat Reid's Colditz Story, then you will recognise a number of the escapes mentioned here. The nationalities may have been altered a little (the TV show SERIOUSLY simplified things, leaving out the Dutch and Belgian prisoners entirely for example and having the UK contingent a pretty homogeneous group instead of the mishmash of commonwealth nations from Canadians to Maoris that actually resided in the Castle.) but the facts remain the same. Either way it is fascinating for a Brit to have the story from such a unique German point of view.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

What She Left - T. R. Richmond

Alice Salmon is a young journalist who is found drowned after a University reunion in Southampton. There is some debate as to what caused her to drown; was it a drunken accident, suicide or was one of the men in her life responsible? Professor Cooke, a man who has crossed paths with Alice at various points decides to reconstruct her life and death by unearthing the footprint left by Alice both online and in the real world, and this book is put together out of those findings. Essentially the book is an attempt to take the epistolary or diary genre into the social media age. This is something that has been done before, Night Film by Marisha Pessl managed to tell it's story almost entirely through it's odd collection of web screen shots, newspaper clippings and social media interactions (and both Danielewski's House of Leaves and S by Dorst and Abrams use a variety of media 'artifacts' to tell their stories); What She Left does not. 95% of the story advances and is revealed through the letters written by Professor Cooke to his Canadian pen-pal, in these letters Cooke not only describes and explains his actions he also discusses details about Alice that he has apparently gleaned from social media (much of which source material never actually appears in the book.) The exerts from twitter, text messages and various blogs are stuck into this story, somewhat haphazardly, and often don't appear to add anything of any particular worth to the story. If feels that the author wanted to do something really groundbreaking, but got cold feet and fell back on more conventional storytelling methods.
Having said all of this I did enjoy the book, in a social media age it was an interesting look at the impact constant communication could have of the posthumous reputation of an individual. It also did have a genuine twist in the tail which I thought was ingenious. In a Girl on the Train age the effect of alcohol on the reliability and relationships of Alice would seem to be all the range, although I do sometimes wonder at the number of 'alcohol makes women bad/mad/victims/sluts/disgusting etc etc messages that we need it does start to feel like a bit of a general backlash. I can't say that I found myself 'liking' any of the characters (except maybe the minor character of Fliss). For a start. I found it hard to see how so many people could have been just so enamoured of Alice, with her histrionics, self absorbed whining and apparent self entitlement. She came over as someone to be avoided at all costs. Few of the other characters came over as too much better. One character who seemed to have been stuck into the book for no obvious reason was Ben, the ex boyfriend of Alice. At no point was he deemed to have been involved in her death, and his sole purpose seemed to have been to illustrate that Alice was totally happy trying illicit substances if ever offered. Maybe to show that she was the kind of girl who 'took no shit' from boyfriends, or rather who 'took shit for quite a while, then decided not to and dumped them' so much like the majority of people really.
As I have said I didn't dislike this book; the story was entertaining enough, in a summer thriller kind of way and despite my issues with it's format I was kept interested enough to read it all. I think that a few years ago this would have seemed like a better read, but there have been so many female orientated murder/thrillers recently and they have been so well handled as to make this one feel a little weak. So while it's not the best, it would certainly make an entertaining enough beach read.

Friday 8 May 2015

Penguin Visit. 7th May 2015

So yesterday was fun. My train into London was a little late thanks to the usual issues of someone being hit by a train at Stratford (why is it always Stratford where this happens?), and signalling problems, So I had a bit of a mad dash across the city to make it to 80 Strand.... I have to say I was expecting a bit more of a big deal at street level.... some tap dancing penguins or something... you know just to let you know that you'd got to the right place. As it was I made my way into the somewhat anonymous building and, once I'd collected my magic visitor's pass, made my way up to the tenth floor. Up here there were a load of Penguins and Waterstoners having a cuppa and taking in the gorgeous views of the river.
 It was really lovely meeting a selection of booksellers from up and down the country, and grand to get my certificate from University of Derby too. I do wish I'd used my married name however, as I would have got all of the handshaking stuff out of the way right at the start rather than sitting about waiting for the Vs to come along. Oh well.... After a little more mingling we got to the really exciting bit of the day the bit where we get to meet some authors. There was a wee bit of fear going around our Waterstones group that it would be DEEPLY awful if we didn't recognise the authors..... Luckily we had a few treats in store.

First up.... Julian Clary... ok so a video message from the man... but still pretty damn cool. He gave us a wee reading from his upcoming book The Bolds.

This is a book aimed at the 5-8 market, and from the section we had read to us is going to be hilarious. It's about a family of Hyenas who have gone undercover as a human family living in deepest darkest Teddington. From what we heard this is a genuinely funny kids story with enough adult humour to keep the parents happy too.
Our second guest was the very funny Dave Gorman, reading us a chapter from his book Too Much Information.
He gave us chapter twelve, which discusses how buying a Rage Against the Machine single, does not count as an act of protest. So funny.... the whole book, (which I read on my train journey home), is a look at the impact modern technology, the internet and social media especially, has impacted on our lives. All of this seemed particularly relevant late last night and early this morning as I was embroiled in online twitter and facebook discussions about the General Election. Dave Gorman gave a lively and very entertaining reading, managing to work his footnotes into the text in an ingenious manner. So we'd had two very funny authors.... evidently the time had come for something a little heavier, more poetic even. Our third guest was Anne Enright, she was with us to talk about what had inspired her to write her new novel, The Green Road.
Enright is a tiny little woman, but honestly sitting listening to her lilt as she discussed the beauty that had inspired her writing, was gorgeous. As she spoke the sun came through the clouds and sent a shaft of sunlight right into the room adding a magical touch to the experience.
Once we'd had a delve into our bags of goodies it was time to hit the bar and have a big more mingling, this time with the authors we'd already heard from as well as with a selection of popular and upcoming authors from the good old Penguin/Random House stable. Some of these guys were really intense, while others seemed to be simply loving talking to people about their work. We had kids authors with books just out, adult authors and a few non fictioners thrown into the mix too. Had some really interesting conversations about the books, the authors themselves and about what it takes to be a bookseller.
It certainly added a few slightly unusual titles to my tbr pile...... Coming away from the event seemed like a real shame, but at least I had made a few good contacts and had my book haul to bring home and get on with reading. Now all I need to do is make a start. ;)

Real thanks to everyone at Penguin and Random House, the publicity people and the authors who time out of their day to come along and have a chat with us. It made for a great day.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

The Classics Book Tag.... part one....

So I've been seeing these go around the internet for a wee while and figured that it was something I could think about doing. I read a fair few of what I consider to be 'classics' so I thought this would be a relatively simple list to complete, although as with everything it gets trickier when you actually think about it.

1: An Overhyped Classic You really didn't like...
 Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse.
I came across the Penguin decades series at my (then) local library. I read a few of them and was really enjoying the selection of decade defining classics. Then along came Billy Liar.... well I hated it. Just couldn't get on with it at all. The characters were annoying at best, not in a 'well this is an annoying character, I can see why the author has made him like that..' way but more in a 'hate that I am wasting a portion of my life reading about this little twerp' way. On top of this I found the conversations and situations depicted to be ridiculous and about as funny as having teeth pulled. There are so many genuinely funny or important books from the 1950s that genuinely capture the spirit of the age, sadly this just isn't one of them. An awful, awful read!

2: Favourite Time Period to read...
 This is actually quite a difficult question to answer, part of me wanted to say the 19th Century covering the diverse range of authors that it does, and part of me thought I might actually plump for even earlier than that; however in the end I decided that the books that I go back to time after time are quite often written during and set in the interwar period of the twentieth century. This period seems to have seen a flourishing of writing especially of women's writing, often with a light and humourous touch, but usually with some form of message or universal truth behind it. I appreciate that Mary McCarthy's The Group was actually written in the 1960's but it is firmly set in the interwar period and is very much a classic as far as I am concerned. I would also throw books like Diary of a Provincial Lady and Our Spoons Came from Woolworths into this grouping, and can come back to these titles and be guaranteed to enjoy myself. Stella Gibbons is a writer who managed to mock the popular writing of the day and yet also to produce some little gems for anyone one who has never gone beyond Cold Comfort Farm I urge you to look at some of her other works. Winifred Holtby's books are fairly new to me, I think they only came onto my radar after the TV adaptation of South Riding, they seem to capture the spirit of the age and place quite perfectly. Then we come to Nancy. Nancy Mitford, one of the fascinating Mitford sisters and one of my favourite authors. Again there is a wonderful TV adaptation of her work which manages to bring out all of the Wodehouse elements without losing the lighter touch that comes through in her writing. For me her writing is simply marvellous. She mocks the society that she grew up in, pulling in all the characters that she had encountered and yet is able to make us feel for them at the same time. As something of a romantic, and, in my younger years possibly a bit of a Bolter too, the section where Fanny discusses Linda's recent death with her mother always resonates with me; Fabrice, Fanny explains, was “the great love of her life, you know”.  The Bolter: “Oh, dulling,” said my mother sadly. “One always thinks that. Every, every time.” Absolutely true, heartbreaking, and simply perfect.

3: Favourite Fairy Tale....
I owe much of my love of fairy tales to the wonderful Marshall Cavendish StoryTeller series from my childhood. At one point I had every single one of these and deeply deeply regret that over time my collection has dwindled so that now all I own are a handful of the cassettes and the book that grouped together some of the better known stories. I have so many stories from this selection that I love. Wiser than the Czar, which is a Serbian folk tale I believe, is a particular favourite.
However I have a special fondness for the Grimm's fairy tales, and for Rapunzel especially. I listened to the Story Teller version so many times that this is still the way that I tell the story. I love that the storyteller version included the blinding of the Prince, and can forgive them for having Rapunzel betray her relationship by complaining about the Witch's weight rather than by her impending pregnancy causing her clothes to get too tight. I really love the story, in it's original form it is a candid look at the dangers of pregnancy and contains so many of the fundamental elements of fairy tales. On top of this it is really a rather romantic story of love, loss and sacrifice and I'm always a sucker for those. ;). Having recently watched the film Into the Woods, I can say that I really loved the version of Rapunzel that featured in the film.

4: Most embarrassing classic to have never read.....

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
O.K. so I'm blushing.... I've never actually read this book. I've seen the film.... I've read all about it... I know what happens but I've never actually opened this one. It's simply never appealed to me, like so many of the 'great American classics' really. To be honest my list of books that I think I should have read but that I haven't, reads like a list of American Classics.... I should get get on this one I think. My problem is largely that, thanks to other media, I am so familiar with the characters and stories of these books that it seems almost like a waste of my reading time to actually read them. A bad attitude and one I will work on. I really feel I should make a start with Mockingbird, and maybe 2015 is the year to do it, especially as Go Set a Watchman is due out later in the year. We shall see.

5: Top Five to Read Soon....
Like a few other people I've split this into my top five to read soon and my top five to reread soon..... Read soons first....
 Five of the books that are on my tbr soon pile right now... Both Slaves of Solitude and The Pendragon Legand have been on my book self for a while, Hamilton is not an author that I have read before but he is someone who I have heard really good things about so I'm keen to get stuck in to Slaves. I have read a fair few of Antal Szerb's books and have loved all of them so far, Oliver VII was an especially good one with a few elements of the Zenda books. Szerb seems to have been an especially versatile author and it is tragic that he was unable to get the recognition he deserved in his lifetime. I am thinking that I shall combine my reading of A Legacy with reading Iron Gustav... I have a short list of WWI classics that I need to read actually, (shocking I know, me having a list of books to read!) but I think this is likely to be the first from the list to get ticked off. Over the summer my husband and I are planning a couple of nice little trips to Italy, so I have been gathering together a few suitable Italian classics to read while we are away. I always find that reading a book while you are actually visiting it's setting is an especially pleasant way to enjoy it. Our first trip is to Sicily in June, so for this I plan on taking The Art of Joy by Sapienza and Scent of a Woman by Arpino. The Art of Joy is billed as THE Sicilian classic so I'm looking forward to that one, while Scent of a Woman is set in war torn Italy following two men making their way back south. Both should be ideal for the beaches and cafes of Sicily.
     5a: Five Classics to reread soon....

  So these are my five that I plan to reread in the next couple of months.... I'm ignoring my habitual rereads like Cold Comfort and Diary of a Provincial Lady... I've already talked about those. These five are books that I can read again and again. With both Vanity Fair and Les Liasions Dangereuses I tend to dip in and out of the book, reading selected passages rather than the whole thing. There are moments in each that are quite perfect as far as I am concerned. The passage describing the battle of Waterloo and the pathos of George's death in Vanity fair is wonderful, as is Becky's first taste of a curry. in LLD it is the section where Madame de Rosemond tries to counsel the Presidente saying that 'a man enjoys the happiness he feels, a woman the happiness she gives.' her warning that the Presidente can only expect grief if she gives in to love is ignored and it is knowing this that gives such poignancy to the passage. Both Silas Marner and Ethan Frome are short and tragic stories that I indulge in on a regular basis, they both are rather dark at times but I delight in the darkness, also it helps that they are both quite short so I can squeeze them into the busiest of days. As for Zenda and it's sequel Rupert of Hentzau, I'm a sucker for central Europe, for a swashbuckling romance and for the high melodrama of these two adventures. The film version is wonderful despite it's ridiculous casting of Rupert of Hentzau, but I encourage everyone to try these two great Edwardian romps.

I think that is probably enough for one afternoon here so shall love you and leave you now....