Books · Witterings

The Naughtiest Girl in the School – Enid Blyton

As you may know I have been venturing back into some childhood books and especially a lot of Enid Blyton. I have covered the first Famous Five, the first Five Find Outers, the first Malory Towers and now here I am at the first ‘Naughtiest Girl in the School’ series. I remember reading them, but I had forgotten how different they were to Malory Towers and I do have rather a love of school stories!

The cover I have shown above, I think is the one I had but that is a very hazy memory and I am sure the one I had was a hardback as well. There is no way of checking as it will have probably passed through many hands by now. I hope it has been enjoyed by all on its journey.

Back to the book! This is the first of four books which are set at Whyteleafe School, a mixed boarding school where the children are in charge, and the structure and form of the education is very different to that of Malory Towers of St Clare’s. In fact you get a sense of the school being quite small and select. Unsure of the size and the cross section of ages gives this school story a different slant.

Elizabeth Allen is spoilt. There is no getting away from it, and Enid Blyton does not hide us away from that fact. As readers we see exactly what she is like and on rereading she is as exasperating now as she was years ago when I read. In fact I would probably say now that she needed a good slap!

“It’s always difficult for spoilt children to fit in anywhere. They think the world’s made for them and them alone”

Elizabeth has had no formal schooling and has been educated by governess but her parents who are going to go away for a year think perhaps she needs to interact with others.

Elizabeth does not want to go and tries everything to stop it. It does not work, so she decides that the only way to get back home is to be so naughty that the teachers will send her back home. However she has not reckoned on Whyteleafe school which runs a rather forward thinking school. The children do the disciplining and try and help others to become well rounded individuals at the weekly meetings where everything is discussed.

Elizabeth tries everything to get what she wants, but she does have some sort of a conscience underneath the rather spoilt exterior.

“Well, I don’t mind making myself unhappy, if I can get what I want in the end-but I don’t want to make other people unhappy. I think I am a horrid girl…

Yes, Elizabeth you are. However Elizabeth enjoys school more than she ever thought she would. She has a talent for playing the piano, gets involved in the garden, rides the horses when she can and even starts to make friends with a girl called Joan. This friendship ends up being a catalyst for both Joan and Elizabeth.

Wanting to help and please, Elizabeth instead of giving up her gift of £1 to the school at the meeting. All money is given in and shared equally between them all (could this be a rather communist act?). Elizabeth keeps it and spends it all on Joan, for her birthday pretending that the gifts were from Joan’s parents. Elizabeth is rash and fool hardy and although the initial reaction was what Elizabeth wanted from Joan it is the fall out from it then Elizabeth forgets about. This results in Joan falling ill. Elizabeth then has some very hard lessons to learn.

Picture taken from The Enid Blyton Society Website

A really good yarn, Blyton at her best some would say. Probably loads would not though! First written in 1940, I think this depiction of a boarding school would be seen as quite radical. Not nowadays but certainly then. There is a somewhat moralistic view perhaps throughout the book. How do you deal with cheats? Finding out why they were cheating and then punishing them is perhaps forward thinking, even more so when the teachers are not involved in the decision making process. As an adult rereading it, I hope that if something drastic happened in the school the headmistress would step in take control and charge. There are some things that children are ill equipped to deal with. As a child reading it, how exciting that the teachers never got involved, and everything was solvable by the weekly meeting and a fair and just system. There to teach the children a lesson in life.

Like Malory Towers, I would like to finish the rest of the series of these books. Simply to remind myself what happens to Elizabeth Allen and once to again to lose myself in a school story!


Ellis Island – Kate Kerrigan

Ellie and John were childhood friends, sweethearts, lovers and eventually man and wife. They were destined to be together, even though Ellie’s parents disapproved of John. Disapproved of his upbringing his religion and his whole manner, and when Ellie is sent to boarding school and John goes to Dublin to work as a carpenter’s apprentice there is hope that any childhood infatuations are forgotten.

But their love is much stronger. It is strong enough to survive the famine and poverty of Ireland in the early twentieth century. It can even survive John’s fight in the war of independence but will it survive his injury? Ellie decided that as money is the only way to help them survive, now John is injured she will have to be the one who goes out and gets it. Through an old school friend Ellie ends up in New York and all it has to offer. Promising to work for a year and send the money home so John can have an operation.

In New York, despite sending money home, Ellie finds another life open for her. There is opportunity, wealth, fortune, better living conditions in fact everything is a dream. The American Dream, sold on the idea, Ellie wants to bring her husband over as well. But he is truly in love with his home land and whatever the offer is he will not come. Ellie’s one year turns into more and she only comes home when her father dies.  Now where do her dreams belong?

The book split into three parts also is spilt in the way the characters and descriptions are portrayed. Somehow Kerrigan creates the buzz and excitement of New York and this jumped off the page for me, and I could see that Ellie belonged and she wanted to make a future. In the parts set back in Ireland, somehow through the writing we were transported back to the times of bleak hardship. Ellie did belong there by her ancestry but there was something else. A determination to do what she wanted without certain constraints, but does she achieve it?

I really enjoyed this book, and I was not sure where it was going and how it would have ended up for all the characters, both those in American and in Ireland. Although the republican fight was dealt with, I felt it was dealt with in depth enough to impact the reader to the importance of what John was fighting for but also what Ellie was doing to help the cause.  A book full of freedoms and reflecting on recognising when they come along and should be embraced.

I find some reviews difficult because I want to mention more about the certain elements of the book in more depth but to do so would give away more of the plot, and then someone else might not discover the book at all or just pass it by because of my witterings. I mention this because this book made me think more about freedom, which is at the heart of the book in some ways. 

Freedom for Ellie to find herself; to be something not just someone’s wife. New York provides her that freedom and also the freedom of choice of destiny. Ironically she ends back in Ireland but she has learnt something whilst being away and we see that develop when she wants to do something other than being a wife. 

John is fighting for freedom. To be separated from home rule. My history shamefully is very woolly about this, and sadly the book did nothing to correct that. John is offered more freedom in going to America but chooses to stay with the freedom he has fought for, despite it being harder work. Does he do this as penance for the freedom their country has now got? 

Freedom effects other minor characters throughout the book. Ellie’s mother has another type of freedom when her husband dies and she us understood some more. Sheila, Ellie’s school friend seeks the freedom from working and being a servant, and wants the freedom of being married and doing nothing and having the servants! Isobel who Ellie briefly works for lives her married life freely with a bottle, free from her husband who is never there and free to do as she pleases and with who. Is this free love?

In some ways the title is the title of freedom Ellis Island. The book actually does not concentrate much on this part of the passage into America. More I think would have been much more interesting. This was the gateway to many Irish born individuals seeking a better life. The book only touches on the rather the process you had to go through before you could even enter America. 

From reading other reviews on this book, everyone keeps recommending Brooklyn by Colm Toibin as a better example of Irish immigration and America. Have any of you read it? Do you agree? Have you read Ellis Island? 

Books · Crafts · Cross Stitch · Knitting

Chicken and Mice

In a spurt of activity I have finished some knitting and some cross stitching. This particular cross stitch piece has been on the go for about 18 months I think. Which is why in the midst of a very dry and warm April and the same it looks like for May I have finished a Christmas piece!

I am pleased with the finish, especially as when it gets to the back stitch I sometimes start to lose a faith and want to start another piece. Which I did, and then found out the material was not going to be big enough, despite me counting it more than once. Good job I had not got very far, but I am currently in the midst of unpicking and I have treble checked the material (after buying another piece) so hopefully this will be coming along quite nicely especially as there is minimal back stitching.

In between the stitching and the reading (as well as the working and sleeping!) there has been some knitting. Spotting this by chance in a knitting magazine and then on Amazon, my mum invested in this book. Knit & Purl Pets by Claire Garland.

This is a book full of funky knitted pets. Including a snake, a tortoise, mice as well as the chicken which is featured on the front cover, the reason I was interested. A colleague of mine has spent many many months going on about getting chickens and so building a coop. He is still talking about it but progress has been made and the chickens should be with him by the end of the week. So in the spirit of acts of kindness and because of the chicken interest, I decided I wanted to knit him a chicken and a egg.

For that interminable question the chicken came first and then the egg. I used ends of wool from varying different balls and the effect was above. I think the yellow for the legs and beak is too light and needs to be brighter, but other than that I am pleased with the effect. Despite really only being a basic knitter, it was a fairly quick knit especially on 5 needles.

If you read the reviews on Amazon for the book, you will see that the most of them complain about the mistakes in the book. I have to confess it is true, in just knitting the chicken I found two mistakes and the instructions are not particularly clear, you do need some knitting experience to be able to do any of the patterns or in my case a mum who knits better.

I just hope the author and the publisher revisit this book and look at the errata’s because it will put off those less experienced knitters who probably would love to knit something different.

I am going to knit another chicken I think, as I have found some wool which will give a different finis. I will not be giving this chicken away though.

Will keep you updated as I can with my craft projects!


Little Girl Lost – Brian McGilloway

Lucy Black has moved back home to look after her father who is having problems with his memory. Her mother and father had split years previously after an incident in their own home which forced them to move out. So there is only Lucy and she is trying to balance this care as well as her career as a DS in the Northern Ireland police where is trying to establish herself. However there are a couple of problems, her father used to work with her new boss Inspector Fleming and her mother happen to be the Assistant Chief Constable. Lucy has lots to prove.

Lucy is called out to a little girl found wandering in the woods who as the story unfolds seems to have played some sort of a part in another high profile case, the police are investigating the kidnap of a teenager of one of Derry’s most prominent businessmen.

This is quite a fast paced book. The chapters are short and long relevant to how the story unfolds and how it wants to hook the reader in. It does this effectively and you are drawn to all the action very quickly. For me it felt like I was watching an episode of television, the descriptions and characters were really strong and jumped off the page.

In particular the main character, Lucy has so many different levels and this came across as she was trying to coax the little girl to talk, to make sense of the case she is not meant to be working on, her mother’s reactions to involvements in events and the ramblings of her father which somehow become entangled into the case she is working on.  Lucy had been almost wrung out with tension and emotion and this came across as the book reached its climax; Lucy needs to find her place in her mother’s life, her father’s life and her career as well as find out what she wants.

A great stand alone novel by Brian McGilloway, although if he felt like making DS Lucy Black into a series then I for one would enjoy reading more. As with his Inspector Devlin books – a gripping story which all crime fans will enjoy.

My thanks to Amazon Vine for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. 

I do not know why I was gripped by this book but I was, and lots of reviews on Amazon have felt the same. Although plenty have not!

I was introduced to Brian McGilloway through Amazon Vine when I read The Rising and then being the sort of person I am I wanted to make sure I read the others and in order (The Rising being the 4th Inspector Devlin book) so I read Borderlands the first as well. That was back in August last year and I have ground to halt in reading his others, but now having picked him up again. I would like to have caught up with them by the end of the year at least.  I admit this is an author I would not have picked up and sometimes it is worth taking a risk because that risk can pay off! 


The Edge of Light – Ann Shorey

This is the story of Molly McGarvie and her survival in 1838 in St Lawrenceville, Missouri where everything she holds dear and true and loves is taken away from her and her strength in human nature and god is tested.

Happily married to Samuel, with three children, James, Franklin and Louellen with another one on the way. Molly’s life is perfect in her eyes. She tends to her family and their needs and has the support of Betsy who was gifted to her when she married. They are as much friends as they are mistress and servant, master and slave for Betsy is coloured and Missouri is a state where slaves cannot be free.

On the sudden death of her husband, Samuel, Molly finds that his family do not stick together and that far from helping her, Samuel’s brother forces her to take stock of her life and try and build a new one elsewhere.  Molly’s conscious is pricking as she believes that she could have helped save her husband if she had got a different doctor to him in time. As she leaves she also has to give up Betsy as well, but is determined to buy her freedom, for her own benefit not for Betsy’s.

On the journey to build a new life in a new settlement Beldon Grove, tragedy and joy are not very far away. Upon settling Molly tries to break free of the constraints of living with her brother and starts to make her own way, with the help of her loom and the cloth that she can weave and sell for cash or barter to make ends meet.  Molly starts to become the local attraction for eligible bachelors both young and old but she cannot think any further than restoring her family together and that includes Betsy.

A beautifully written book, with a beautiful background setting. The descriptions of the settlements, the vast outback, the cattle even down to the slaves and the Red Indians are all covered in detail but at its heart this book is filled with romance. Upon reflection, it has a lot of references to religion and God but for me it was not off putting and I did not feel I was being constantly preached at from the pages of the book. It fitted in the time period of the book and the behaviour of the characters and such was an asset. Although it is a romance, and predictably you can see the outcome, it did make you think about Molly’s motives and actions some of the time, especially in relation to Betsy her selfish need did not make her see the bigger picture. Are we not all guilty of that at some point in our lives?

A new genre for me to discover and now I am hooked about what happens at Beldon Grove and want to find out more.

I admit I would not have read this book if it was not for the fact that it was free when I came across it on Amazon, it has since gone back to its Kindle price of around £7.69. It was a gem of a book to find for free and I was surprised by it. It was not until I started it did I realise, that I was in the America of old, where land was bought and settled on, and were people came and towns began to grow. Rather tongue in cheek all I could think of was Carry on Cowboy

and was this how the town looked? All joking aside,  I was actually surprised by the book and felt that I had learnt quite a bit about late 1830s America. I have no idea of whether any of the book is historically accurate, but I certainly came away with a greater sense of the place and I have to confess a slight fascination with the period. Along with this and the romance, the book sits in the Historical Romance category nicely. 

Strangely enough, this book brought back reminders of Katherine Webb’s The Legacy which I have just recently read and reviewed, there are sections in that book set in America, although in a much later time period the history and background were familiar. 

This is the first novel by Ann Shorey and on her website she uses the tag line “Yesterday’s Women – Today’s issues”. Thinking on this small statement, the book is very much that. Yes there are issues that in the main the women are dealing with which are of their time, but there are others like the death of a husband, the birth of a baby, illness of a child, how to survive which transcend all history and time are relevant today. I would love to read the two subsequent novels, which make up this series, but they are currently a bit too pricey for me to buy. If they suddenly became free on the kindle, I would have no qualms and downloading, reading and reviewing. 

Books · Witterings

One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four… and Five…

Joining in with the fun with Simon from Stuck In A Book  who tired wanted to still post with a quick sort of post mentioning a few books! I know how he feels, as the bank holidays are on hold until the end of the month I am slowly getting back into a routine at work, although it has been rather manic as I have been deputising for my boss whilst he was off for a couple of days – chuck in the arrival of 2 palette load of duvets, staff leaving, end of month reports and then staff falling ill, I was glad when he was back and I could get back to just doing my job!

Therefore reading has somewhat slowed, and I have not got into a routine of reading, sleeping was more beneficial for me! Simon’s post was just the tonic I needed. So let us get on with it….

1.) The book I’m currently reading: 

 Irish woman, Ellie goes to America to send money back to her husband who as lost use of his legs due to being involved in the Irish troubles.  The roaring twenties are in full swing when Ellis is over there and she experiences something different from home.

2.) The last book I finished: 

Review coming soon for this book – very good! Gripping.

3.) The next book I want to read: 

Oh gosh how can I chose when the pile is ever growing but I am going to go with The Crimson Petal and White which I have downloaded to my kindle and have started so perhaps it should feature in No 1. But I actually want to finish it I think!

4.) The last book I bought: 

Back a few weeks ago I bought more than one book!  Take your pick really.

5.) The last book I was given: 

From my mum – who read it a long time ago, wanted to read it again and then could not find it anywhere. Then ebay provided a cheap option and it was devoured in a day.

 The blurb says this:

The townspeople would have said Larking, with its stone rectory and thatched farmhouses, was typical of a thousand other English villages. As it happened, this was true. And everyone in Larking thought he or she knew everything about everyone else. In that they found they were mistaken – especially the morning the postman found Grace Jenkins murdered. She had lived quietly at Boundary Cottage for twenty-one years, but there was a great deal about Grace the townspeople did not know. And everyone’s favorite Detective Inspector C.D. Sloan soon discovered they knew even less about her daughter Henrietta…in fact, nobody could explain who Henrietta really was.

So there is my five. A good way of consolidating on books and what we are all reading or have been reading and what has been coming in and out of our bookish homes!


13 Little Blue Envelopes – Maureen Johnson

Ginny is sent a parcel with the knowledge that her Aunt Peg has died. In this parcel are 13 little blue envelopes each with a number on and instructions in each one to be followed out as Aunt Peg’s last wishes.

Aunt Peg was someone who did not follow the norm and did things differently, a contrast as we read the book to Ginny who seems to think she should do what is expected and what is safe and known. However these letters change Ginny’s life and she embarks on finding out what she really wants at the age of 17 and who she really is.

The letters take Ginny to London, Edinburgh, Paris, Amsterdam, Denmark and Corfu as she has tasks to complete, someone of them not as obvious as others. There is little description on the places, this is not a travel book where the destinations are described as being characters themselves, and it is the vehicle that Ginny uses to find out about her grandmother and ultimately herself.  Ginny is the main character even though Aunt Peg is important she is almost a background character as are all those who Ginny meets on her travels. It is not until the end of the book that the important people stand out for Ginny and also the reader, and what is learnt from them to help Ginny.

This is very much a book for young adults, although as an older one I did enjoy it! A fair introduction of something dare I call ‘young chick-lit’. There was something of the cynic and practical side of me that was saying, what about the money aspect of travelling off round Europe with very little money and not getting into more problems, moving from country to country was easy as if moving from street to street.

The writing and Ginny as an individual is somewhat immature and infantile but I believe that this is the crux of the story, of Ginny growing up. The ending is somewhat odd, and slightly disappointing, although as I have now found out there is a sequel it makes a bit more sense my only concern is that the author may need to be careful and not wear a plotline to thin, as it may end up boring the readers.

A quick, agreeable read, ideal for young girls who want to perhaps bridge the gap between too childlike and too adult books.

I got the opportunity to read this when it was going for free on Amazon Kindle. Not a book I would have normally chosen, but I do like books where they use letters as a toll to tell a story, I always find that rather intimate. I have said in my review it was a quick read but it was lacking in something, what I cannot put my finger on. That said, the nosey part of me would like to read the sequel just to find out what happens but I would not pay very much if at all for the book. I think therefore that reflects on how I felt about the book. 

Is there any books that you would like to read or perhaps a sequel to find out what happens but you cannot justify paying the money to do so? 

Books · Witterings

Gervase Phinn

A last minute opportunity to go and see Gervase Phinn at a local hall is what myself and my family, with a couple of friends decided we would do last Tuesday. In the style of “An Evening with…” Gervase Phinn delighted a rather disappointingly small audience with his tales of life as a school inspector, a reader of books, an author and really an observer of ordinary life in general.

For those who are not familiar with Gervase Phinn, allow me to give you a brief bit of background. Gervase was a teacher and then became an Education Adviser and School Inspector based in Yorkshire. A supporter of the charity Childline, he was invited to go onto Esther Rantzen’s tea time programme which finished in 2002 was asked to talk for 5 minutes, ending up staying on 40 and the rest is history.

He lectures and advises on educational matters, but more importantly for me he has written some wonderful books. Autobiographical novels called “The Dales Series” which capture the essence of the wonderful Yorkshire countryside, the tales of other inspectors and Connie the caretaker and most important the things that children say. I have read all of these, but not reviewed them all, my reviews can be found at the links.

There have been books and poetry for children, and there has been two more Autobiographical books not so fictionalised as the Dales series
and a forthcoming novel drawn on all his experiences, Little School in the Dales out in hardback, August 2010.
If you have read his books, then I have to admit when you see him speak, a number of stories are brought to life with his wonderful Yorkshire dialect and tone! Such bliss to listen to, and yes I knew what some of the outcomes were going to be but I still cried with laughter. There is something just so down to earth and genuine about him but also he makes some very valid points about society, position, life and reading, although not necessarily in that order.
Sitting there watching and listening I reflected on how much I was very lucky to be brought up in a house, full of books, where trips to the library were as common as trips to the supermarket. Food was a necessity and so were books. This comes from my mother’s side of the family, but my dad was also a storyteller and did not need books, but created little tales which had me hooked in completely he still can manage it now, you think I would have learnt by now. Only years later did I find out that my dad was not very good at reading, and if he had been educated today he would have probably been classed as dyslexic, not something that he talks about or we mention but subconsciously both my mum and I do try and help him out. It was a rather a moving thing to hear my dad talk about me and my reading to someone, it made him proud and me secretly beam with pride. Now, he does read and whilst it is in the main Autobiographies I always think any reading is a good thing. Always has the patience to watch all the Agatha Christie TV adaptations and basically anything about books on the television. And he has read Gervase Phinn.
I digress, from the matter in hand that of Gervase Phinn. Interaction with the audience was good and he was in the bar before and after the show and would gladly sign any books. For some reason which I regret it never occurred to me to pick up one of the books that I have and take it to be signed. However, I was one of the more younger members of the audience, something that Gervase picked up on but also he pointed out what we can learn from younger people, even those younger than me.
The innocence of children as they are not corrupted by what they know or have learnt, everything is new to them and therefore everything they see or say is with complete innocence although Mrs Malaprop does come in and wander about occasionally. I would like to share many of the things that were said on the night, but with any great storyteller there is the build up to the wonderful “punchline”. Keeping in the theme though, I thought I would relate what I overheard last Monday whilst reclining on my sofa reading….
local boys in the road where I live, were outside enjoying the sunshine, and in the spirit of boys trying to impress other boys, a particular older one was holding court and for some reason showing off to his so-called friends that burning the American Flag would get you sent to prison, and that it was all to do with religion, and that them Americans have the bible like we do, Britain’s have the bible, and you can’t burn that because bad things will happen, and even worse if an American burns the bible. But them Muslims well they burn the …….. Korma……
An enjoyable evening out and it was nice to hear someone talk where it was not littered with bad language and just honest humour. A nice way to my finish first day back at work, and being back indoors, showered and in bed by 2230 was a bonus for me who has to get up at 0530! I know that Gervase Phinn will be back round on his tour again in the near future, this not being the first time he has ventured down south!

The Bookshop – Penelope Fitzgerald

This is the story of a small town in the late 1950s where a resident Florence Green against the wishes of many others decides to open a bookshop in the town. What results is a battle between the people who have standing and connections and the ordinary folk who enjoy using the bookshop.

Penelope Fitzgerald’s short book, less than 160 pages is rather a bittersweet tale of a battle of wits it has eccentric characters, a supernatural presence rapping in the building where the bookshop resides and scenery and location described beautifully. The character of Mrs Gamart is an irritation who thinks nothing of people’s feelings whilst she goes out of her way to get what she wants. Christine, the young girl who helps Florence in the bookshop, is like a breath of fresh air in the town for she will be the next generation but even she has to admit defeat in the face of Mrs Gamart. Florence Green herself, quiet and unassuming can soon put people back into their place but it is not strong enough for the will of Mrs Gamart who finally succeeds in her mission.

Despite being a very short book, it felt much longer. You really have to read and linger on each sentence, paragraph and page to get anything from the book as well as the enjoyment of reading it. For that it is worthy of more than one read, because I feel I would get more out of it second time round.  A book with a lot of sadness and somewhat black humour in dealing with small town politics and small minded town folk which will evoke differing feelings I am sure on a reread.

I picked up this book because of reading other people’s book blogs, and on the one hand I am glad I did as I would not have done so. It has introduced me to another type of book; short and where the action is not necessarily jumping off the page but the words and its structure are. I think the last time I was considering such a thing was at English Literature A Level, where I only achieved a D grade. 

I am definitely going to reread it, because as I finished the book I did think that perhaps  I was missing out on something, and it had passed me by. However upon reflection after two days before I sat down and constructed my review I realise that it had not passed me by but lingered more thoughtfully. 

The cover at the top is the actual book I got from Amazon not the one advertised on their page 

Books · Witterings

April Roundup

Here we are again another month done! And what a month. A plethora of bank holidays and a plethora of books both bought and read.

I started the month with a sickness bug, and all I could manage to read was some Enid Blyton which I am sure aided my recovery like it did when I was younger. I went back and visited First Term at Malory Towers again, and I remember these books with such fondness, and I have a real liking for school stories! I followed this up with Jill Murphy’s – The Worst Witch. Long before the days of the little boy wizard we have grown to either love or loathe there was Mildred Hubble! I have not reviewed this yet, as I have decided to review all four books I got in the set together, but have counted it here for the purposes of books read in April.

I tried to continue that theme during the month and read Agatha Christie’s Cat Among the Pigeons set in an all girls school. I will at some point reread the rest of Malory Towers and then venture over to St Clare’s. As for Agatha Christie, I can always venture over there at any point and I discovered Parker Pyne Investigates. No Poriot and Miss Marple how will I cope? Fantastically well, and the short stories were a perfect tonic and were just right, I could go back and read the book again and again quite happily.

Talking of short stories, I am going to venture that The Travelling Matchmaker fits into this category very nicely. They are short books, less than 180 pages and have taken me roughly a day to read. I started in Exeter with Emily (Emily goes to Exeter), moved with Belinda to Bath (Belinda goes to Bath)and am waiting to pick up the adventure with Penelope in Portsmouth, my home city. There are three more places to visit, Brighton, Dover and York with Beatrice, Deborah and Yvonne.

Another foray into short stories this month with Penelope Fitzgerald – The Bookshop. Because of seeing so much on blogs about this, I wanted to share in the experience and that I did. A very thought provoking book. Review to follow shortly. Another blog recommendation and spotted on a few blogs (Book blogging does wonders for my book shelves but not my bank balance) was Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader.  Just a fabulous book and the thought of perhaps the Queen sneaking a book as she travelled to Westminster Abbey on Friday last just to pass the time made me smile!

If you have been following this blog for a while you may well have picked up on another theme I always seem to come back to – stories set in big houses with a history or at least a family history. Here this month I discovered Katherine Webb – The Legacy, which fits into the ‘big house’ category for me. I also stumbled across Linda Gillard – House of Silence on Amazon, only available as an e-book (more about that later) and again, this is about a family history which unravels at Christmas when they are all gathered at the family home.  A big thank you here to Linda, who replied to my correspondence and has sent me two of her earlier books as I recognised the strength of craft when it comes to mental health.

History was prevalent in Louisa Young – My Dear I Wanted To Tell You, which I read thanks to Amazon Vine, and has been pitched as one of those books you must read in 2011 and probably it is a book you must read if only to experience another side of how the First World War effected so many people. In some ways the Travelling Matchmaker books are history as they are set in the 1800s but for more historical based fiction with an element of truth then I picked up the second book in a burgeoning series Rhys Bowen – A Royal Pain. Set in the 1930s.

Real life books were also read this month. By that definition I mean books where the main characters are real and exist now. Tessa Hainsworth – Seagulls in the Attic is the follow up to the brilliant Up with the Larks where she continues to fictionalise her life as a Cornish Postie after having been something “big” in London and wanting to take stock of her life and probably what is called downsize. Another author who has had a change of direction is Scott Barfield – Zen and the Diary of a B&B Owner. This rather short book was a collection of anecdotes of the guests and visitors to his B&B in Brighton. It was fun and enlightening and all the more interesting because I have a little knowledge of the area of Brighton as it is just an hour away from me.

It was rather a chick lit free month in some ways, the only book that fitted into that category was Deborah Wrights – Swimming with Dolphins and I still feel guilty about being slightly scathing about the book when I saw on Amazon that other reviewers loved it enough for 5 stars. I have to keep reminding myself that it is a good job that we do not all like the same books! Life would be boring! I did go for another book by the end of the month in what I have dubbed “young” chick lit, mainly because I think the book 13 Little Blue Envelopes – Maureen Johnson, is rather aimed at the teenage audience and a transition book perhaps into more adult books. The review for that will follow this post in coming days.

This month has been quite a strong month for using my Kindle. I have read 5 books on it, they are marked by a K at my 2011 Books. Not through choice but more through accident and discovery and for those I paid for, because they were cheap and I was trying to be thrifty (ignoring my mass book buying for this month). I am sure I am reading quicker on my Kindle, but it could be that I am just reading shorter books on there! I have discovered some fabulous authors which has led me on to looking for more books.

As the month of April ends I am currently reading Michael Faber’s The Crimson Petal and White and throughly enjoying it. I will have to wait until the TV series is repeated now. Plenty of books to choose from in May though I am not sure I will be able to read so many – 16 in April.