Books · Witterings

Free Your Imagination

The BBC have launched their Books on the BBC season in a press release on the 25 January. Along with their Year of Books.

There is much to this season and the BBC has so much to offer us fans of books and reading.

This year the BBC will be celebrating books, in all their forms, by inviting audiences to free their imagination through the exploration, enjoyment and discussion of Books On The BBC.

As the biggest producer of books programming, the BBC has chosen 2011 to highlight and celebrate our related programming, from established literary strands to new documentaries, series and dramas.

Whether they are hardbacks or paperbacks, eBooks, audiobooks, costume dramas or radio plays, books tell stories, contain knowledge, pass on experiences and fire the imagination.

At the core of the BBC’s mission is the same truth. Since the BBC’s first broadcast in 1922, a key part of our role has been to impart knowledge through programmes that inform, educate and entertain, so we are delighted to champion the power of books through a broad range and depth of quality content.

There are going to be documentaries: Faulks on Fiction BBC 2 (I think Sat 5 Feb)

Author Sebastian Faulks gets to the heart of the British novel through its characters, in a new four-part series for BBC Two.

Faulks On Fiction explores the heroes, lovers, snobs and villains in classics such as Robinson Crusoe, Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations, Lord Of The Flies and The End Of The Affair.

Written and presented by Sebastian Faulks, the series tells the story of how the British novel made us who we are and features characters including Fagin from Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, Mr Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice, Chanu from Monica Ali’s Brick Lane and Jim Dixon from Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim.

Fry’s Planet World (BBC 2) Anything with Stephen Fry is going to be interesting, well put together and informative.

Stephen Fry explores linguistic achievements and how our skills for the spoken word have developed in a new five-part series for BBC Two.

Major book events of the year are going to be covered including World Book Night and The Man Booker Prize. Culture Show Specials will feature on World Book Night and the essential ingredients of a bestselling novel.  The Radio 2 Bookclub will continue and Anne Robinson will ask personalities to share their life in books.

With all this talk of books there has to be TV adaptations of some great novels. The BBC does not fail. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, South Riding by Winifred Holtby (currently featuring on a number of blogs). Case Histories by Kate Atkinson turned into a 6 part drama featuring Jackson Brodie. I must get on and read this book! Sarah Waters’ Night Watch is also adapted. This was the first Waters book that I read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Culminating in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens which we have to wait to near Christmas for and takes us and the author into 2012 and the anniversary of his 200th birthday.

I have only covered some of the delights we are going to get and probably the ones I will definitely find time to watch. More details can be found here.


Alphabet Weekends – Elizabeth Noble

Natalie is back home for New Year’s Eve because the man , Simon she thought she was going to marry and live happily ever after with has gone, because he cannot handle it anymore apparently. Natalie seeks solace in an old friend of hers Tom. Despite the fact that they have known each other since school days and her family and many of her friends say he is a good boy, Natalie just sees Tom as Tom and nothing else. Love to her is an instant hit not a slow developer.

Tom sees it different and to bring her out of her wallowing self pity he suggests that they play the alphabet game every weekend. They take it in turns to find an ‘activity’ beginning with the corresponding letter. Tom sees this as way of showing Natalie that there is more to love than just that instant hit and that it can develop over time.  Natalie just thinks it is a load of rubbish but plays along as she realises she has nothing better to do on her weekends. You know what is going to happen, and the reader is taken along for the ride to see the end result.

Thrown into this book were other characters that were related to Natalie and Tom the main protagonists. Thrown was an adjective I chose carefully because at times there was too many of them and I felt that they brought nothing to the book. I lost at times who was related to whom and how they featured altogether. The dialogue was poorly written, and I struggled to work out who was who in any conversation. (This also applied to Natalie and Tom). The aim of the other characters, I feel from the author’s perspective was to show differing types of love. The love between Natalie’s parents when her mother is diagnosed with depression and her father has a stroke and their lives change again from what it used to be when they were just parents. Lucy and Patrick (Tom’s brother) have everything but Patrick seemingly operates on a provide and protect basis in their marriage and Lucy is looking for something else. Alec and Marianne (friends with Lucy and Patrick) have other concepts on how marriage should work and can work no matter what love does to you. There are more but to list them would just show you that there was little purpose to them.

The premise of finding activities beginning with a letter of the alphabet was a good one, but I felt at times that perhaps Noble was struggling to find something that suited the characters she had created. The job swap idea for ‘J’ was good but little was made of the job that Natalie was in, other than the fact that she needed to get a new one. Concentrating on that part of the characters development to me would have been better than focusing too much on Lucy and Patrick.

However, despite my misgivings I would say that this book was okay. Nothing that would stay with you for very long but easy enough to while away a couple of hours without much thinking and emotionally attachment to the characters. Chic-lit definitely but there is much better out there that defines the ‘genre’ than this book.

This is the fourth Elizabeth Noble book that I have read. I have just revisited my reviews on the other three. The Reading Group, Things I want my Daughters to Know and The Girl Next Door. Interestingly enough I have given all the books 3 stars on Amazon including the one I have just read. Reading back through my reviews I have obviously picked up on a theme of  them being just average types of books where there are a lot of characters and you have to sometimes go back to refresh who everyone is and who they all relate to.

I have not read all of Elizabeth Nobles books. I have not picked up The Tenko Club, which I believe by reading Amazon is being reissued under a different name (why do they do that?) The Friendship Test. There is also a new book out this year called When You Were Mine. But do I read these other two? Or do I perhaps just give them a miss because they are obviously not pleasing me?  I think perhaps if I happened upon The Tenko Club in a charity shop then I may be tempted, but I feel that I have gone as far as I am going to go with this author.


Memoirs of a Fruitcake – Chris Evans

Chris Evans brings us book two, a follow up to his first autobiography, It’s Not What You Think. When I read that book I was impressed by the writing and the honesty with which Evans brought to the page. His second book does exactly that again and more and carries off where he stopped having just bought a radio station as you do.

What then follows is the sheer climb to the top and the rather slippery slope back down to the bottom and in some cases perhaps beyond that.  His purchase of Virgin Radio made him a media mogul to be reckoned with and that is exactly what people did, as he sold the company and then was promptly sacked from the job he loved doing – broadcasting and broadcasting on a Breakfast show. He had made his money but now he was losing it.

Along with the money, Evans was also losing the insight into who he really was. Some could say he was losing his self respect – he thought he had found it in drink. A great part of this book is given over to his drinking binges, the people he hooked up with along the way and those that also dropped him when the going got too tough. His mania, for this is the best word I can think of to describe his behaviour, manifested itself in different ways. But Evans tells us the truth about those times and the truth hurt, as his behaviour hurt a very number of people. You do find out about his personal relationships and the ones that were very public (think Geri Halliwell) and probably the media thought they were dictating the course of the relationship, but Evans reveals the truth in such a way that he does not appear to be dishing the dirt but just telling his side of the story.

With this self destruction he suddenly found a chink of light and hope in the shape of Billie Piper. A whole third of the book is devoted to their relationship from beginning to end but also what they did for each other and how they helped rebuild lives out of the mania they were both at that time living in. I will leave you to read the book to find out the details – it might just surprise you!

Evans talks about his relationships where the money side of his life is in the background but he also talks about the money when the relationships are in the background. He made some bad decisions in both, and some interesting purchases and a lot has slipped through his fingers. A lot!

Evans then brings us up the present day and probably his best kept secret, that of taking over from the king of breakfast radio Terry Wogan. A year later than was originally planned but nonetheless he seems to have found his breakfast family happily on the radio and has started to refocus on the important things in life, including his wife, Tash and their son Noah, as well as daughter, Jade where many bridges have had to be built to rectify the bomb blasts that were created by him in the past.  Throughout the book are little pearls of wisdom that in hindsight are marvellous things but at the time would have been valuable pieces of advice if he had heeded them.

This book does not fill you in on much or very little of the back story before Evans bought Virgin Radio. If you want that, then you need to read the first book. What it does give you is a complete insight into a man who has been top of his game and bottom. Quite simply with nothing in between. It is written with strength and emotion and actually I found some of the decisions Evans made very painful to read about, it must have been just as painful for the author if not a cathartic process for him .  It is littered with ‘celeb’ stories but this is not dishing the dirt but merely stating the facts. An excellent read if you are a fan of autobiographies but especially if you have an interest in Chris Evans whether it is positive or negative.

What can he do next in his life that will warrant a third instalment? We will just have to wait and see.

Books · Witterings

Kindle Kid Reads

Kindle finds a space with the books waiting to be read.

My latest post here was about me acquiring a kindle. This post is about what to put on it and what purpose is it going to have in my reading life. Too deep perhaps? My kindle is an addition to all the books I have to read and all the ones I have yet to buy!

In the back of my mind, I thought that the likes of Dickens, Austen, Bronte, Hardy et al were going to be my staple books on the kindle. Even better when you know they are free! I always want to read them and have done in the past, mainly through education but definitely not enough!  What did I decided to start with?

Little Women by Louisa M.Alcott. A book which I can remember trying to read when I was younger but for some reason never getting into. I am now well into the book now, and although have struggled a bit with it (not the kindle) I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Now whenever you get a new gadget you always want to have a good play with it. So that means I had to test out what the kindle can do. Therefore I downloaded some sample books. When I go shopping in a bookshop, I always stand and read the first couple of pages of a book to see if it grabs me and I want to read more. I only do this with authors I do not know.

The ‘sample’ books I downloaded:

Trisha Ashley – Chocolate Wishes. I read the Twelve Days of Christmas and raved about it so wanted to see what another one of hers was like. RESULT – I loved it so will now seek out a copy of this and her other novels.

Matlida – Roald Dahl. I loved Roald Dahl books as a child and fancied reading them again. I enjoyed the first few pages of this. RESULT – I have asked for them to be brought down from the loft at home so I can reread them.

The King’s Speech – Mark Logue and Peter Conradi. Saw the film. Wanted to read the book. RESULT – I am going to buy this. Currently cheaper on the kindle than in paperback.

Chocolate Wars – Deborah Cadbury. Seen this mentioned on blogs and I do like chocolate. If I cannot eat it as much as I want perhaps I should read about it instead? RESULT

Live and Let Die – Ian Fleming. Read Casino Royale not long after the Daniel Craig film came out. Wanted to try another Fleming book having enjoyed the first and also the Sebastian Faulks James Bond novel as well. RESULT

Christmas at Harrington’s – Melody Carlson. Kept looking at this over Christmas on Amazon, not sure whether a Christmas book will work so well in January. RESULT

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death – M.C. Beaton. Read this many years ago, recommended by my mum. Did not really like it then, but wanted to give it another go and see if being older gives me a different opinion on it. RESULT

Snobbery with Violence – M.C. Beaton. Discovered these on Amazon and are Edwardian Murder Mysteries. I am rather into these at the moment so wanted to see how I would get on with this one. RESULT

Moab is My Washpot – Stephen Fry. Currently listening to this via my ipod. Not struggling with the subject matter or the narration by the author. I seem to keep get lost as to where exactly in the book I am when start to listen again. Whereas I never have this trouble when reading an actual book even if I have not read any of it for a couple of days. RESULT

As you can see I have not got all the results in on this little project (I think it has turned into one!). I will let you know how I get on.

Books · Witterings

Kindle Kid

I have a Kindle. And why am I a Kindle Kid? Well I was discussing Kindles with my mum and weighing up whether it would be a worthwhile purchase or not. Mum decided she wanted one, so she bought one. That simple. My mum is a huge fan of audiobooks something which it has taken me a long time to get into and I am still working on that particular avenue for absorbing books. Anyway once it arrived and I had to help her set it up, with wireless keys etc and showed her how to buy the books or get the free ones. We found it could take my mum’s already purchased audio books (currently on ipod – my mum likes her gadgets!) onto the kindle. Plus there is the ‘text to speech’ facility on there as well.

All this did was make me decide that I would purchase one for myself. I knew from having played with it that I would only use this from now on without ever holding a real tangible book again. I love books. However owning a kindle would give me the opportunity to try out books and see if I would like them, read the classics of which I am ashamed to say have read very few. For classics please think Austen, Bronte, Dickens etc. And searching the store I also found much loved children books that I could also reread.

But then things started to go wrong…..there is a problem with my service charge on my property not in my favour. Then the fridge decided it would break and I was left with rather thick milk at 0530 when making a cup of tea. Add to that it will take a week to get it fixed after being cut off from the customer service centre and then being told I would have to repeat the whole problem again after being on hold and pressing a numerous amount of buttons to get to a human.  

It does not end there, a letter saying my car needed a safety recall; nothing major but it is when the nearest recommended dealer garage is over 30 miles away and petrol is just plain expensive and I have not budgeted for such a thing. I have found a dealer nearer to me than they say I should go to and will also be an excuse to go and look in a couple of bookshops there. Window shopping of course! Can you see I am trying to look for the silver lining in all of this?

Was there anything else? Oh yes, the flush on the toilet is also broken. I have tried to fix it myself but it is now time for some help from my dad. Do you think that is enough stuff to start 2011 with?

Something did go right though…my mum said she would buy me a kindle. I have argued about this, along the lines of trying to stand on my own two feet and money etc, but I think my mum just wants to be my mum and therefore she won. Plus it also means we both have the same thing and I can help her out with it and share what we have been reading. I am now an owner of a Kindle!

Who else has got a Kindle? Or an eReader? How are you getting on with it?


100 posts

This is my 100th post (actually published post) I have some posts on draft for varying different reasons but will be published at some point…..perhaps in the next 100 posts.

I did not think I would make 100 posts, but I have and I thank all of the people who have picked up this blog and follow it. Thank you also for all the wonderful gems of books that I have now added to my collection or are waiting to be purchased.

Why pick 100? Well in politics they always measure the first 100 days in power. A subject (and a government) I will quickly gloss over! In the ‘arts’ – the top 100 films you must see before you die – the top 100 books you must read before you die – the top 100 places you should visit.   We are all put under a lot of pressure to fulfil 100 ‘things’ before we shuffle off this mortal coil. I wonder if I can use the quote as 100 quotes you must use before you die? Life gives us enough pressure as it is without having to count all the things we do. So what I am saying is this will probably be the only post about how many posts I have made on this blog.

Now what else about 100? Well at the end of every year the BBC Online Magazine Monitor is a little place of the web that perhaps not everyone knows about. Every Friday we are introduced to ’10 things we didn’t know last week’. That is a 0 missing I hear you say – very true. However, stick with me on this one. At the end of each year they compile a ‘100 things we didn’t know last year’. That is where I was going. Never fear I am not going to copy 100 facts for you to read but a mere 10 and that was an intentional missing 0.

  1. Moby is related to novelist Herman Melville and was named after his most famous creation.
  2. Paper can be made from wombat excrement.
  3. The famous “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster was never actually used during World War II.
  4. In the early days of barcodes, there was a plan for round ones.
  5. It’s possible to watch 28,000 films in a lifetime.
  6. Books used to be bound in human skin.
  7. Janet and John were named Alice and Jerry in the United States.
  8. There are 109 journeys between London’s Tube stations that are quicker to walk.
  9. Biscuits are key to clinching deals.
  10. Emily, of Bagpuss fame, was paid with a bag of sweets.

These 10 come from various years not 2010. Let me know if you come across any of these interesting ‘things we didn’t know’?


Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie

You are on one of the most famous trains in the world, on one of its original routes when it hits a snowdrift – what do you do? You throw in a dead body and the world’s most famous Belgian detective and you have ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.

This is one of Agatha Christie’s finest stories featuring Hercule Poirot. After the first night aboard the Orient Express, the passengers wake up to learn one of them has been murdered, stabbed twelve times in rather curious fashion. Poirot is asked by the director of the company to investigate what has happened and find out the truth. The twelve other passengers do not know each other, but do they know the victim? Poirot endeavours to find out the truth and uses his charm, wit and ‘little grey cells’ to discover it. Christie cleverly separate the book into three parts the facts, the evidence and where Poirot “thinks”  this breaks the book down into not just manageable parts for reading but concentrates the reader on each possible suspect presenting everything. Poirot then brings us all together to come to the conclusion.

Much has been written about this novel over the years and on reviews, and I have tried to stay away from plot etc because I think it would be all too easy to inadvertently let the potential reader find out the truth before the famous dénouement . Which Agatha Christie is ultimately in my eyes famous for. The point where all those loose ends, red herrings and snippets of information are brought together. The interesting thing is, the clues are throughout the book and are there for the reader to pick up and decipher.

If you have never picked up a Christie before, and want to experience what perhaps all the fuss is about, then this is an excellent book to start. I would recommend the David Suchet TV adaptation version for a visual that is true to the book. The ending is the same, but the only criticism (of the television version) is that it is made more moralistic then perhaps the book comes across.

I am really getting into reading more Agatha Christie and picked this one up, because of the TV adaptation which I think was magnificent and made television on Christmas Day more interesting. Although made my mum and I search her house looking for the book which we were convinced she must have somewhere and when discovered she did not we then proceeded to try to comprehend why she did not own it. Especially amongst the huge number of other Agatha Christie books she does own!

Connected to this, is the wonderful ITV documentary with David Suchet where he gets to ride on the ‘real’ Orient Express. The television one was created in a studio! This took you into the world behind the Orient Express and Suchet made the perfect passenger and even driver! Suchet came across as a genuine fan of the train as well as the infamous character and took all the jokes about “is there going to be a murder” and “we know whodunnit”  with great aplomb! His ability to slip straight into Poirot and out of it is uncanny, but for a man who has made this his role why should it not be? I look forward to the rest of the adaptations that are left to make and I hope ITV do not make any more foolish decisions about not making anymore. If they do – then pay attention BBC you need to finish this wonderful work and fulfil all Agatha Christie Poirot stories and make Suchet happy!

Back to the Train! This would be an ultimate dream for me to ride on the Orient Express, reading the said book and knowing whodunnit on a journey similar to the character. What luxury! Can I recreate this at home? No, I think it would ruin the dream. I will stick to the book and the TV version.

Books · Witterings

Author Correspondence

Hothouse Flower by Lucinda Riley is one of the Richard and Judy Spring Reads and I recently reviewed only days ago on this blog.

I found the author’s website and decided I would like to write and say thank you for such a wonderful book. Something that I have never done before but felt compelled to do. Now the cynic in me, thought that I would get a response from some minion to say “thanks for the comments, we will pass it on to the author, she was glad you liked the book”.

However, I got an email back from the author herself. What a delight! Lucinda praised me for my review, it is posted on Amazon as well and also gave me a few details about how the book is doing…. “coming in 4th biggest for Richard and Judy sales in the first week at WHSmiths”. Which is great for a debut author and a book which had NO PR/Publicity campaign behind it, Lucinda went on to tell me. It is all down to word of mouth. So this post is to spread that word of mouth further.

Please note that I am not receiving anything from the author for this post. Just like I was compelled to write to Lucinda Riley I have felt compelled to write this post and share my email with you all. Especially as she has obviously taken the time to read my blog (and Jessica she picked up your comment, go and have a read it makes me smile!).

I look forward to further correspondence with Lucinda Riley and if there is anything exciting to tell you all, I promise I will share it.

Crafts · Cross Stitch

So some stitching

Where does the time go? In fact I do not know where the day’s are going, and I have been slack in picking up stitching especially as over the Christmas holidays I did suddenly get a lot done. Anyway, my reason for the post is to show you how far I have got in the vain hope it might motivate to me to finish it!

This was the last time you saw a photo (August 2010)

And now this is where I am at (January 2011)

I can see the difference and it does look like it is snowing on them as well! Sometimes when you are working at something close up you cannot see the whole picture. If anything that has spurred me on to do some more. It is time to tackle the backstitching and bring life to these wonderful little characters and also perhaps it may be finished for Christmas 2011!


Martha’s Journey – Maureen Lee

Martha’s Journey is the latest novel from established author Maureen Lee. It tells the story of Martha who has many battles in her life and journeys to complete.

A husband who after an accident seems to have given up all hope of working and spends his time sleeping and drinking leaving Martha to bring the money into the house. A house that all of them share, small rooms, no privacy and with no facilities other than those at the end of the yard which the whole block of four to five families share. Martha does her best to make it a home for her children when it quite clearly is not.

Martha’s five children who all love her in their own way are all very different characters. Frank; a chancer who sees no wrong in his actions. Joyce; trying to be better than her family and snub their way of life. Joe, too young to have taken on the responsibility of looking after a family. Lily and Georgie the youngest children but who seem to have humour, faith and innocence when everything else in their home and life is lacking.

One day Joe, at the age of fourteen comes home and says he has joined the Army and is off to fight in The Great War. Here begins Martha’s journey for justice. Joe should never have been allowed to join up but because of a corrupt Police sergeant he is to join the man’s world. Martha starts her fight to bring her son home, but fate takes a different path and Martha feels she has to continue her fight at all costs and take the injustice of young lads being allowed to join up right to the front door of 10 Downing Street.

For me this book did not strike enough emotions for me as previous Lee novels have, I turned the pages but not with any excited anticipation.  There is something quite insipid about the character of Martha and I feel much more could have been made of her. Kate who befriends Martha very quickly is slightly unbelievable although not entirely impossible despite being from two different classes. I felt that Kate was there to show the difference in the ‘class’ of the people of Liverpool and that for Kate, Martha simply became a stepping stone for her own ends; to become a journalist.

Martha’s journey to London by foot, as originally planned is hijacked by Kate’s journalist friend Clive and another journalist Alex who suddenly appears and they both seem to engineer Martha for their own making and the politics of the whole time suddenly infiltrates one woman’s simple mission to get an answer for why her fourteen year old son was allowed to join the Army and go to France.

The presence of the prologue and epilogue is not relevant and to a degree pointless; this was a vehicle to introducing the story of Martha. This book could have been fleshed out with more on Martha and her family from when she first got married and the start of their family life together, rather than a couple of sentences to explain how Martha and her husband met.  As a reader I would have felt much more for these characters if we were to see how they arrived at that point in their lives and then what path life took them on.

Not one of Maureen Lee’s best novels and I would start with some of her previous work if you have never read anything by her before. However I will acknowledge that she has obviously researched and brought an issue that is probably not covered in many other ‘family saga’ novels of underage boys joining the Services to fight for their country.

I was disappointed by this book. I chose it to read next, because I wanted something cosy and I knew would keep me reading and absorbed whilst I was not feeling 100%. It did not deliver on this front at all.

I reiterate what I have said do not start with this book if you have never read Maureen Lee before. Here are links to the Lee books which I have read and reviewed on Amazon. Try Kitty and her Sisters, The September Girls, The Leaving of Liverpool, Nothing Lasts Forever and Mother of Pearl. Her much earlier work I read long before I had a computer and decided the reviewing books was going to be a passion of mine. I think I would still read whatever came next from Maureen Lee, but perhaps it would be a library loan?