Books · Jottings

Jottings #6 – The Future of Reading

It has been a while since I have jotted here on my blog and I thought I would share a couple of things with you from this week.

Much discussion across blogs, newspapers, readings group and the like is the continual debate over eReader versus ‘real’ book. And I am not debating that here, but in a rather tenuous link I am sharing this link to a eReader interactive programme that measures your speed of reading.

I came out at around 71% faster than the average, it tells you how long it would take to read War and Peace at that speed! Personally I do not want to read for upwards of 22 hours straight! I am also intrigued by the way we use War and Peace as a definition of many things. When an officer comes and asks to photocopy something, I ask ‘As long as it is not War and Peace’, you may use the machine. Colleagues mention having to read briefings, notes or minutes that resemble ‘War and Peace’. Perhaps tomorrow I might say as long as it is not “Five on a Treasure Island” and see what response I get?

This little interactive then goes to show you how many books you could read on your eReader before you needed to recharge the battery.

I found it interesting, mainly because I remember an English Teacher from Secondary School that said I read too much and too quick. She told my mum that I could not possibly be reading so much, that I was just skimming it and would not be taking any of it in. I never seemed to have a problem though. But then this is the same teacher that said my spelling was atrocious, which my mum took her to task on. (How I would love to have been there) Turns out the teacher had muddled me up with someone else. Strangely enough spelling is one of my bug bears and really irritates me after all these years. There is no excuse for poor spelling.

Many years later, I was rather unnerved to see this English Teacher doing a Body Pump class at the same gym as me. It brought back many memories!

Do have a go at the interactive speed reading test and see how you compare.

Talking about teachers and reading at school I am going to lead you to another link. This time to BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words Competition which is a competition open to youngsters. The premise to write a story in 500 words. On Friday 1 June, on Chris Evans Breakfast Show (baby depending) the winners will be announced and some of the stories will be read out by some famous voices at The Hay Festival. You can pop along to the website and read or listen to some of the Top Stories. I have only read a couple so far but do check out My Nanny is a Ninja which I think is very witty.

As part of this wonderful competition which started last year and I think will be continuing (how I wish I was a child again) next, they have teamed up with the Oxford University Press to analyse the words used in the stories (over 74,000 of them)

  • The most common noun is door
  • The exclamation mark is a favourite piece of punctuation. It was used 351, 731 times!
  • There are lots of brilliant similes: as saggy as a baboons bum; as tall as a dozen giraffes standing on top of each other; as soft as a new bought dressing gown from M and S; as puzzled as a baby doing proper fractions

Do check out the report, it makes for very interesting reading.

There is no doubt whoever wins, (your height in books!) there are so many budding authors out there, that no matter how you read your books on paper or new technology; the story is not going anywhere.


I Hunt Killers – Barry Lyga

Crime Fiction Alphabet – B is for Barry Lyga

Seventeen year old, Jaspar “Jazz” Dent comes from what you would call a dysfunctional family, his mother has been missing for years, he lives with his senile Grandmother because his father is in prison. Not a great start in life you could say.

However, it is all a bit more dysfunctional than that – Jazz’s father is the most notorious serial killer in America and Jazz is worried that his upbringing on how to kill, cut, slice and dispose of bodies and how to outwit the police is going to turn him into his father. And when everyone knows who you are you begin to doubt all your actions.

When a body is found in the town where Jazz lives, followed by another a pattern is emerging,  and Jazz can see an uncanny connection to the pattern of his fathers killings. But the Sheriff refuses to link anything together so Jazz accompanied by his friend Howie and girlfriend Connie do some of his own investigating.

However, the killer seems to be one step ahead all the time and when the Sheriff recognises the connection with Jazz’s past, events start to take a turn for the worst. Everything Jazz holds dear to him is threatened; his friendship with Howie; his relationship with Connie and his own belief that he is going to turn into his father, because he is thinking exactly like him. Jazz fears himself.

A gripping thriller which I am led to believe is pitched at the more Younger Adult audience but I think apart from the language used, and the very little bad language used there is little to suggest this.

There was enough blood and gore description to get right under the skin of the reader, and plenty of psychological twists when you actually start to believe that with a flick of a switch Jazz could turn his hand to continuing his father’s legacy if it was not for someone getting their first.

I like Jazz, he was a fighter and you could see that through the way he dealt with everything that he came up against, even the police who were at first thinking he was still to wrapped up in what his father had done. Jazz knew which battles to pick and could manipulate the situation to his advantage, a skill his father taught him, but one that Jazz used differently.

It was interesting to see the novel from the point of the perpetrator’s family – so many thrillers can centre on them and not those they leave behind after they have committed their heinous crime. The senility of the grandmother, made you question whether such insane criminal behaviour stemmed from a family trait. Mention must therefore go to the Nature versus Nurture debate, that many reviews touch on. The fact that Jazz was a minor made it all the more interesting as he had no means of escape unless he concurred with the social worker assigned to him to help remain ‘well-adjusted’. Under the circumstances I think Jazz was far more ‘adjusted’ than many of those that knew him give him credit for.

A good page turner, and an excellent book if you have a teenager that perhaps wants to branch out into more thriller type fiction.  With likeable and believable characters that you want to know what happens to them, so you keep turning the page.

One character I did laugh out loud over was Howie. You never expect to laugh with a crime thriller novel do you. Howie is Jazz’s only friend. Jazz came to his rescue when he was being bullied, and despite Jazz’s notorious father Howie sees past all of that and still remains his friend. The irony of all this blood and guts in the novel is that Howie is a Haemophiliac. 

Thank you to Transworld Publishers for sending me this for review.

I read this as part of The Crime Fiction Alphabet Challenge hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise


Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues – Trisha Ashley

Tansy returns to her home village and her Great Aunt, after the break up of a relationship, betrayal of siblings and having her self confidence and worth knocked out of her. Retreating back to Sticklepond to try and repair all that is broken with her life. Where there are people there who love her for all her quirkiness, whether it be clothing, work or passion for baking.

Tansy decides to bring to life her own Cinderella dream of opening a shoe shop that sells bridal shoes only, traditional, vintage and all that goes with it. As the business builds and “Here Comes the Bride” plays as the door opens to this new venture. However the past is not far behind, when an ex-love, Ivo moves in next door, now a ‘resting’ actor who has taken time out for a peaceful six months suddenly finds in the middle of a lot of romance from the shop door sounding and the peal of wedding bells. His gruff manner is appeased by walking Tansy’s dog and her baking the obsessive need to feed him up.

This is a modern day Cinderella tale– Tansy the main protagonist has the step-sisters, Marcia and Rae who are more than unpleasant they are so awful that I took an instant dislike to them as their characters almost came off the page; I had an overwhelming desire to smack them for their actions. For a while you perhaps think that Justin, a dashing doctor is Prince Charming but in fact he is the toad that all princesses have to kiss before finding their prince. He is on a par with the step sisters, and whilst some could admire his dogged determination in trying to win back Tansy, you do wonder how an intelligent man could not understand the clear message that Tansy was giving him. Tansy loses faith in ever finding Prince Charming; but then perhaps he comes in a different form that Tansy never believed.

There are many sub plots in this book some work and are weaved in well with the story; Bella, who is not looking for romance but it rings at the door. Tansy’s Great Aunt (Nan) Nancy who not only leaves her the family shoe shop but also an oral history of her life and past secrets on her own romantic notions of the past and how sisters were an unpleasant two generations ago. An interesting contrast you could say. Other sub plots jarred rather; the threat of an out of town outlet shopping centre was dropped in the story and seemed to be sorted out so quickly that it became irrelevant to the rest of the plot. For me it did not need to be there or needed to be developed a bit more to make more of an impact. Perhaps it would have fitted better in a sequel once Tansy and the shoe sop had been established? Ivo’s constant voice speaking in Shakespearean quotes was irritating although perhaps that was to be the point? Nonetheless it did not give him the depth that I perceive it was intended to do.

That said Trisha Ashley is on top form with this novel, and I loved it. Much escapism with old fashioned courtship and romance. Plenty of mouth watering descriptions of food, made me want to get up and bake. I want to live in Sticklepond and be part of it all. Familiar characters from her previous Sticklepond based novel Chocolate Wishes are featured and there is a wonderful familiarity about it all which makes it a great comforting read. A good Trisha Ashley novel to start with and if you are a fan you will appreciate the warmth and the gentle humour that is sprinkled throughout – rather like icing on a cake!

Read my review of Chocolate Wishes here 

I am working my way through Trisha Ashley novels and I could not wait for the new one to be released. It came at a time when I needed that wonderful feeling of curling up with a good book and forgetting what was going on outside of the pages. Which is why I think I can give it five stars on Amazon even though there were parts that I did not necessarily like which I have commented in my review above. It has certainly piqued my interest in baking again, not that it had really gone away –  It was just the scales once on them tells me something completely different.

Coming Up on this blog – Trisha Ashley answers some questions on her books and writing. 

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Book Club #1 – Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

I was lucky enough to be chosen as a World Book Night giver for 2012 and even more luck enough to be able to give Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier out. As well as releasing these books to people who do not necessarily read or have never read this book an off the chance remark on Facebook, led to some friends wanting to have a read, which led to my first book club! So Jo’s Book club was born made up of family, friends and neighbours and a couple of weeks ago was our first meeting. Eek!

I admit to being rather nervous, as never having done anything like this before and being particularly passionate about books and reading, I do realise that not everyone is like me. I did a little bit of research about questions and found the website litlovers where there were plenty of tips, ideas and discussion questions on Rebecca but lots of other novels too. I also found a little ice breaker game which I thought would be good way of kicking things off.

So with refreshments dealt with, we played the game which gave us all a chance to find more about everyone’s likes and dislikes; such questions as:

Where’s your favourite place to read? – Popular answer was in bed!

What was the first book you remember reading/being read?

Which book have you read most frequently?

Not everyone had finished the book, so I made sure that we were not going to spoil it for everyone if we discussed the ending. Such talking points covered; du Maurier’s works such as Jamaica Inn which Karen loved (and I agree). How creepy Mrs Danvers was. Nastiness of Favell. Mrs Van De Hopper ‘friend of the bosom’.  The scene where Mrs de Winter comes down the stairs for the Ball dressed as one of the ladies in the painting, made me want to cringe – I really wanted to shout “don’t do it”. That was a turning point for Carol and she was really captured by the book. The issue of the second Mrs De Winter not having a name.  Why Max took her home to Manderlay? And the division of Rebecca being in the west wing and the new Mrs de Winter in the east. Then leaving her to fit into a life unknown to her with no help. Beatrice, Max’s sister tried so hard to help the new wife. Never thought of it being a being a murder mystery, but he did kill her. Why were they in exile? Lots of unanswered questions. Then discussion of the Hitchcock film adaptation and the television version with Emilia Fox.

In fact reading the afterword in the book by Sally Beauman (who went on to write Rebecca’s Tale) gave us a lot to discuss. The questions I printed off were not needed that much but were a very useful tool. I think we covered quite a lot really.

Not wanting to losing momentum we headed for a refreshment top up and then a bit of a book swap, with the many books that I have got waiting to go to the charity shop and the various other places I distribute them. It enabled everyone to pick something that perhaps they would not have thought of picking up before. Sue surprised us all with her choosing a rather graphic crime novel. It was a good idea and next time round everyone is going to bring some for swapping, which will be great fun!

It looks like a new little book group has started and everyone was keen for it to continue, I really was not sure whether it could have been a one-off or had potential. Luckily the latter.

So how to choose the next book, difficult when you do not want to push your choices on everyone else, but I suggested Room by Emma Donoghue, it was featured on the list of books which was given out at World Book Night which started this book group off and is a current well-known novel and I also knew would be easy to get hold of copies in a charity shop as well as the library. So we have gone with that one. Carol ordered it immediately that night for delivery and my mum the following day as it was relatively cheap on kindle. I already had a copy and now everyone else has there’s – it looks like we are good to go with Chapter Two of my Book Club and we meet again in June.

As for following books, I have printed off the list that my local library service provides a number of copies for book groups. So that will give us certainly some more choices. I am also hoping that the promise of some books from a publisher will come to fruition as well.

Everyone enjoyed the evening and so did I. It is great to share the love of reading and books with people, and we had the I am sure obligatory discussion about kindles, paperbacks and hardback that seems to be doing the rounds in many literary places.

Then in The Telegraph this last week there was an article about book clubs and how to run one successfully – apparently avoiding alcohol and Middlemarch my book club should survive?

Has anyone got any tips or suggestions for future books or perhaps little games to play?


Third Girl – Agatha Christie

Crime Fiction Alphabet – A is for Ariadne Oliver

Mum’s book which I read

A flat share of three girls, in the 1960s does not seem a likely place for the renown Hercule Poirot to become involved in the minds of criminals but he does. The third girl of this flat share, Norma Restarick interrupts Poirot one morning whilst he is breaking his fast with “a steaming cup of chocolate…to accompany the chocolate was a brioche. It went agreeably with chocolate”. She thinks she may have committed a murder and came to him for help after hearing Ariadne Oliver the author, sings Poirot’s praises. But Norma thinks he is too old for any kind of assistance and leaves as quickly as she arrived satisfying nothing of Poirot’s interest which is now piqued, he seeks solace in that of Mrs Oliver.

And so begins the trail of Norma Restarick and the whereabouts of this unknown murder if it really did happen. Mrs Oliver with her own style of veering from one theory to another, not getting any names right along the way most of the time, does not like the thoughtfulness of Poirot’s method and goes it alone with amusing coincidences. But the little grey cells work in mysterious ways and with Agatha Christie’s style we see he conclusions reached and I had worked out quite a lot of the end result.

However, for some reason I admit to struggling with this novel and I am not sure why. Its setting is the 1960s which I found very disconcerting, somehow Poirot and the swinging sixties do not go together. Although it did provide some amusing observations of girls. I wonder if this was really Christie’s own personal thoughts voiced through the detective? Ariadne Oliver’s is not as prominent in this novel as in others but when she is, she does provide a lot of humour.

I had preconceived ideas about this novel after having seen the television adaptation which is vastly different from the book, which is probably why the book and I did not get on. That said, it is a clever tale and I am rather pleased that I worked it out. However, if I wanted to recommend a Christie book with Ariadne Oliver in, I would not choose this one.

Ariadne Oliver appears in 6 novels with Hercule Poirot starting with Cards on the Table (link to my review) , Mrs McGinty’s Dead, Dead Man’s Folly, The Pale Horse (without Poirot), Third Girl (review above), Hallowe’en Party, Elephants Can Remember. She was introduced to Christie readers in Parker Pyne Investigates 

A middle-aged woman and successful detective novelist, she is described as “handsome in a rather untidy fashion, with fine eyes, substantial shoulders, and a large quantity of rebellious grey hair with which she was continuously experimenting”. ; She is a feisty character and believes that Scotland Yard would be better run by a woman!

I always think of Ariadne Oliver as being played by Zoe Wanamaker in the ITV Poirot series with David Suchet as the man himself. She seems to fit the character so accurately “Poirot sighed. With Mrs. Oliver one always needed a lot of patience.” I sometimes think her love of crime but her complete hate of her own fictional creation in Oliver’s own books that of Finnish detective Sven Hjerson was a tongue in cheek way of showing readers that perhaps Christie was not that much of a fan of the Belgian Detective she had created. 

I read this as part of The Crime Fiction Alphabet Challenge hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.


Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death – James Runcie

Sidney and Geordie meet regularly on a Thursday night for a couple of pints and a few games of backgammon in The Eagle, the local pub in Grantchester, just outside Cambridge.

They talk about life and what has been occurring in their lives. Their families and potential love interests. 

Just two friends getting together and sharing life, a friendship if you will.

So what makes them so different from any other?

Sidney is a thirty-something jazz loving Canon, Geordie is a police inspector. It is the year of the coronation, 1953 and James Runcie has created a new detective to rival such as Miss Marple, Mma Ramotswe and Father Brown.

Six short stories are contained in this first volume (there is to be six volumes in total) from a woman worried about the death of her married lover, was it suicide? A theft of an expensive engagement ring at a dinner party, that Sidney is attending, the apparent speedy death of a mother who is reluctant to let her daughter marry, a forged painting of a former Queen, and a death on stage in a local am dram performance.

In all of these Sidney needs to draw upon his strength to help and guide as well as be called upon by the police to assist where necessary. Investigations become part of pastoral care in Sidney’s parish. It is his faith in people not just his religious faith that shows Sidney’s keen eye in these investigations.

Runcie has created a wonderful character in Canon Sidney Chambers he has depth and will no doubt be developed more in proceeding novels. Although the stories can be read individually they actually all inter twine with recurring characters such as the potential love interest for Sidney in Amanda and Hildegard. As well as Sidney’s family especially his sister Jennifer. Then there is the delightful Mrs Maguire the housekeeper with a forthright manner and opinion and aversion to dogs.

The setting is picturesque, and it took me back in time to the mid fifties and with enough relevant historical setting to place the novel correctly and I look forward to see how these novels progress. In the meantime I will be rereading this book and enjoying it all the more.

Thank you to netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to access this book and review. 

I read this book on my kindle and will actually now be going out and buying the book. I want to be able to keep this book forever, and look forward to collecting them all. The cover is just so wonderful as is the stories contained inside. I did not realise until I started reading that they were short stories, but it was just what I needed when I was reading the book. I will be recommending this book to many people. 

Once I had read the book, I did a bit of research about the author and discovered much. James Runcie is in fact the son of Robert Runcie, former Archbishop of Canterbury and is not only an author but also a television documentary maker with documentaries about J.K. Rowling and his own father to name a few. 

The Grantchester Mysteries which I can see becoming under that category of ‘cosy’ crime will be a six volume series starting in 1953 through to 1978. I am looking forward to how Sidney will change in this time, from Coronation to Silver Jubilee, and how life changes and no doubt changes the way crime changes and the criminals are caught. For some reason this felt right for me beginning a series of books which start in the year of the Coronation in the year of the Diamond Jubilee.

The Grantchester Mysteries has its own dedicated website please do go and take a look where you can also see a sample of the book and get taster for it. I am sure you will be wanting to read it all. 


Going Dutch – Katie Fforde

When you get married you expect to share your life with the person you have fallen in love with. But for Jo and Dora, sharing seems to be rather challenging.

Jo’s husband decided that he would share himself with another younger woman, and Jo leaves him to start her own life again and finds herself living on a barge in London owned by a friend.

Dora makes the momentous decision that who she has chosen to share her life with, is not going to make her happy and so she escapes and seeks refuge on the barge with Jo who also happens to be her best friends mum.

A new form of sharing begins as Jo and Dora try and find their feet in the new challenges that face them. Dora forms a friendship with Tom, who works at the local boat yard and he wants to share the more daring and unsafe side of life and challenges Dora to push herself out into the world.

Life on the barge seems idyllic, Jo is finding a new way to make a living when she finds out the barge needs to be re-insured, inspected and this cannot be done where they are – it needs to go to Holland. Jo needs to face up to actually travelling in this barge and sharing the adventure with the man who has been brought in to complete the task, Marcus. A friend from Jo’s past.

Dora sees this as another opportunity to break away from her safe past, and with the help of boat mad Tom, Ed an expert first mate, Jo and the brooding Marcus with his high maintenance girlfriend embark on the trip. A trip that will change them all. When they come back from their adventures will they be sharing ever again?

A lovely escapism book perfect for reading by the river, with a glass of wine in hand.  I would not say that this is one of my favourite Fforde novels I have read so far, but it is was pleasant and light hearted and for a while I was not sure where the plotline was going to go so I just had to keep reading but without as much as vigour with the other books I have read.

I cannot say I was disappointed with this book, as I did enjoy it but I was not as caught up in the tale as I had with the previous two novels I have read. However, being new to Katie Fforde and knowing that there are plenty more out there to read, I am not worried in the slightest and now coveting which one of her novels to read next! 


Agatha Raisin and the Busy Body – M.C.Beaton

What can one say about Agatha Raisin? She continues to try and avoid village life and the murders that occur on a frequent basis, but something draws her right into the melee of it all. And in her 21st adventure she is still as rude and cheerless as ever and I just love her! 

The dislike for the local Health and Safety officer, Mr John Sunday by the villagers has led to Christmas being ruined for many, as the tree cannot festoon the top of the church tower. Whilst discussing the way forward at a local meeting, a scream is heard and it appears that Mr Sunday has ruined, another event – by being murdered.

Agatha a reluctant attendee at the meeting suddenly wants to become involved in the catching the perpetrator but with a man so hated where do you start looking. Something as trivial as that will not bother Agatha. When the prime suspect enlists Agatha’s help in solving the crime, the story picks up pace, and twists along the Cotswold lanes until the perpetrator is discovered.

Well known characters form the series make appearances in this book, and as always picking it up is like revisiting a long lost friend. Long may they continue.

Thank you to newbooks magazine for allowing me the opportunity to read this as part of ‘A Life’s Work’. I could not miss the opportunity to read a M.C.Beaton and kindly they sent me one I had not got. 

So despite reading this wildly out of order of the rest of them – this is the twenty first book, I have only read up to book six, I was more than happy to read it. All it has done is make me want to catch up on what I have not read as I can see so much has happened that I did not know about. I had to try and accept it as a given in ‘The Busy Body’ rather than having that insider knowledge. 

They are great books to read for escapism and I finished this over the bank holiday weekend with no trouble at all. It also counts towards my 2012 challenges as well. Back to reading them in order now though! 


Leave it to Psmith – P.G. Wodehouse

Lord Emsworth of Blanding’s Castle has but one love it seems, his garden and the various conflicts he has with his gardener Angus McAllister. However his sister Lady Constance has another love; one which seems to be of the fashion – hosting literary types at the castle.  Already installed at Blanding’s is Miss Peavey, a poetess. With the incoming arrival of Ralph McTodd another poet, Lord Emsworth’s quiet existence is set to be disturbed. 

Lord Emwsorth’s son has his sights on a business opportunity but is missing one vital ingredient, the money. Lord Keeble, husband of Lady Constance has relinquished his control of his money upon marriage. He can see only one way – the theft of his wife’s diamond necklace.

Phyllis, Lord Keeble’s stepdaughter wants money for her husband to buy some land. Her friend, Miss Halliday is earning it by cataloguing Blanding’s castle. Mr Baxter the efficient Blanding’s secretary earns it by working there. To solve all the financial problems that seem to be arising enters the saviour of the day; Ronald Eustace Psmith (the p is silent):

‘Peasmith, sir?’

‘No, No. P-s-m-i-t-h. I should explain to you that I started life without the initial letter, and my father always clung ruggedly to the plain Smith. But it seemed to me that there were so many Smiths in the world that a little variety might well be introduced. Smythe I look on as a cowardly evasion, nor do I approve of the too prevalent custom of tacking another name on in front by means of a hyphen. So I decided to adopt the Psmith. The p, I should add for your guidance, is silent, as in phthisis, psychic, and ptarmigan. You follow me?’

Psmith needs his own money after breaking away from the family business of fish. No job is too small or large for Psmith as long as it has nothing to do with fish.

So begins the farcical movements of the characters that Wodehouse creates and the desire to be the one that gets the diamond necklace. A joy to read and witty humour on each page as you turn, as the plot thickens and not everyone is as they seem, and all seem to have some sort of a connection to each other without even realising. It was enough to make my head spin but in such a joyous finny way.

If you have never read any Wodehouse before, then this is as good as book as any to start with. Those familiar with Jeeves and Wooster will recognise the location of the Drones Club, and their inhabitants like the monocle wearing, witty if not rather ineffectual Psmith who despite adventures seems so nonplussed about it all. I look forward to reading more of Psmith and also about Blanding’s Castle.

My reasoning for picking up a Wodehouse and a Blanding’s Castle one at that was the news that the BBC have commissioned a 6 part series based on the stories.  I have read many Jeeves and Wooster and delight quite often at the Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie television adaptation. So being of the read the book before kind of person I wanted to be one step ahead of the programme making and as such picked up this book in my local library. 

The first book was not available when I was there so I picked up this one as it was the second in the series, and I look forward to heading back to the first and continuing with the rest! When writing the review, I poked about with a bit of research about the book and discovered that whilst only being the second in the Blanding’s series of novels it is in fact the fourth (and final) book where the character Psmith takes virtual centre stage. The dilemma now being, I will need to seek out the other three preceding books featuring Psmith;  Mike and Psmith, Psmith in the City, Psmith, Journalist. Success has pointed me in the direction of Project Gutenberg where these books can be found! What ho!

It is such a joy to have found Wodehouse again, and I curse myself nearly everyday for actually giving away the Jeeves and Wooster books I had collected and wish they were delighting a shelf somewhere in my flat. I will have to start again…….

Do go and have a look at the Wodehouse website here which gives you lots of information about the books, the man himself and some wonderful cocktail recipes and quotes from Wodehouse novels. I repeat the one that was on the website whilst I was composing this post

“That’s the way to get on in the world – by grabbing your opportunities. Why, what’s Big Ben but a wrist-watch that saw its chance and made good.” (From The Small Bachelor)

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Readers’ Day – Winchester

Saturday 28 April saw me embarking on a little trip to Winchester, to Milner Hall, to a Readers’ Day.

The Readers Day was organised by the magazine newbooks which is a magazine for readers and reading groups. I have only been subscribing since issue 64 (current issue is 69) and it is great to read reviews from other readers, articles about interesting aspects of reading, what the staff of newbooks is reading as well as interviews with authors and so much more!

This venture was a first for them, and I hope they thought it was a success. It was a first for me, never having been on anything like that before and I thought it was a success even more so when Winchester is not actually too far from where I am.

In the interest of saving petrol, worrying about parking the car and the cost and the one way system in Winchester I thought I would go by train. Done my research about times of trains and cost, and decided that to keep costs down I would walk to the station. No problem there apart from one thing – rain and plenty of it. Rather than ask my parents to help (I set off quite early – which I did not think was fair on them) off I drove to the station, parked the car and went in search of paying for a ticket for the car as well as myself. You have to go into the car park, park, get out and lock your car, head into the station to buy the parking ticket and then complete the reverse. I hoped that no traffic wardens were lurking about, probably not in that weather!

So task completed, ticket bought to Winchester, off I went to wait for the train. Kindle in hand, I did smile at the other three people waiting on the platform, all reading. Books or kindles but all reading! A good omen for the day perhaps?

One change to make at Southampton, and I got completely disorientated. I was facing the wrong way whilst travelling on the train. I needed to change platforms, but I could not get into my head that I wanted to be getting on a train going to Waterloo, which to me as a driver was going in the opposite way to where I wanted to be going. Asking a railway worker who looked at me rather scathing and said I need Platform One, and turned her back and when I said is this Platform One, she merely replied no it is Four.

I found Platform One, and I diverted to the conveniences which I have to confess were very clean and well-kept. Distant memories of rather unpleasant toilets come to mind when travelling on trains when I was a child. Anyway, back on the train and still facing the wrong way, travelling backwards. I got out at Winchester, still disorientated, came out the wrong door, could not understand the map I had printed off and the rain coming down, I went down the wrong road. In the end I popped in their Discovery Centre (posh name for a library) and they pointed me in the direction of where I wanted to be Milner Hall

A real tucked away little place, which you would probably miss especially when the weather is against you. But go through the archway and

I will let the plaque outside to tell you all about Milner Hall.

Once I got there, settled myself collected my name sticker and information. I grabbed a coffee and chocolate cake which was a great way to begin a day. I will say it ended with tea and lovely scones as well! I was good though and took my own lunch, so I could remain in control of my eating and not just head for the nearest eating place and eat the easiest and quick thing.

Instant observations about the event; there were around 80 people, of which only about 8 were men! A great age range and also people had come from as far afield as Scotland, Sheffield and Norfolk for the day. I perhaps foolishly thought they would all be relatively local like myself. There were some and I only bumped into them at the station on the way home! It was a bit squashed in the hall, same room for the seating, refreshments, the stage for the discussion and the shop and book swap.

So what did we do – there were three authors attending the event all published by Orion – Veronica Henry, Katherine McMahon and R.J.Ellory (links will take you to their website). Three very different authors and they with Guy Pringle (publisher of newbooks) asked them questions which had been sent in and discussed the process of writing, subject matter and genre to name a few covered subjects.

When the reminder email came through about the event, there was the option to ask some questions and so I emailed back three, not for anyone in particular but across the board. Flatteringly Guy mentioned me and my questions on the off chance that the discussion did not go anywhere. My questions were not needed, but in case you want to know what I asked, not really profound but…..

1. What books would they recommend to read?
2. What novels have they really tried to read but just cannot get into and therefore remain sadly unread?
3. Is there a genre of novel that you wish you could write about but currently don’t?

Up first was Katherine, I had only read one of her previous novels. The Crimson Rooms and loved it and learned from her when getting another of her books signed The Alchemist’s Daughter that there is to be a sequel to Crimson Rooms and also that her mum thought The Alchemist’s Daughter was a bit racy! It was interesting to hear how she comes up with the idea, the genre and how actually although actual people feature in her novels e.g. Florence Nightingale in The Rose of Sebastopol it is merely in a passing reference not to give voice to those people. I do love historical fiction.

Following her was R.J. Ellory the one author I had not read any of. All I can say is once this man starts talking it seems very difficult to get him to stop. Not because of what he is saying is utter rubbish. But because he was articulate and made so many valid points I wish I could remember them now to share with you! The one that sticks in my mind is the fact that many people are not sure whether he is female or male just from the name. I am hoping that I have cleared that one up here! The other was why he based his books in America, when he is clearly very British. His thoughts on American and Americans made me chuckle and I did laugh at the person who was so desperate to show him this building which was built in 1901 and was over a hundred years old. The American decreed that this was amazing. Oh to shatter their illusions of the many buildings in this country.

I purchased one book at random, and he kindly signed it for me and actually made the time to question my surname and ask its background. I look forward to reading his book and certainly learning more about his writing. He was a very popular choice of author for many of the audience. I would dearly love to hear him talk again. I was tipped off by a fellow reader whilst there to check out his videos on YouTube.

The third author, Veronica Henry, I have read a number of her books and also follow and chat with her on Twitter. I was excited to meet Veronica, who recognised my name from Twitter, thank goodness not by the picture (This will only make sense to those on Twitter) and signed one of her novels for me.  Veronica has also been a scriptwriter and I asked whether there was a point when the novel writing and the scriptwriting got confused. The answer was no, but actually with novel writing you are in complete control of everything, you have to bring it all alive for the reader. Scriptwriting is putting words into the characters mouths, the rest of the atmosphere for want of a better word is created by the lighting, the setting, etc. It is all someone else’s concept. At least with reading, all the images are in my head and I can set up the lighting and the atmosphere as the words come off the pages!

It was interesting to learn that such authors as Veronica never get mentioned in the newspaper reviews which is a shame (although I think newspaper reviews consider themselves to be a cut above what has apparently been called mum-lit) so I am certainly recommending her novels, and I really do not care which genre they fit into and whether the newspapers mention them or not.  Cracking good reads and I look forward to her latest.

Much talk was about kindles and ebooks, it is a sign of the times I suppose. Antony Keates is the marketing director at Orion and gave us some interesting facts about ebooks; for example it actually takes longer to publish an ebook and costs more than an actual book. And that Sony started with ebooks in around 1992, but it is in recent years that the phenomenon has taken off.

When asked how many people had an eReader , I would say probably about 65 people put their hands up (myself included). Very interesting to see and the inital feeling I got was that it was more for convenience than anything else i.e. travelling and the thought of lugging great big books around. In fact Katherine McMahon was reading Middlemarch and found it easier on her eReader.

The secondary question to that was, how many of those with eReaders still purchased paper books. A very enthusiastic myself included, hand raising said that nearly all of those with eReaders still purchased paper books. Only one or two were now solely confined to their eReaders. One point was raised was the way as an English language we say ebooks and actual books, as one lady pointed out they are all books it is just the format in which we read them is different. No doubt that is a debate which will go on – if I have used actual books, I am referring to paper books.

So despite sales of ebooks rising, paper books declining and independent book shops closing what does the future hold? Who can say, although Anthony made an interesting parallel point; first there was vinyl records, we progressed to cassette tapes, which were over taken by the cd, that are fading away because of downloads, and now what is the biggest seller, vinyl records? Makes you think doesn’t it?

So with a brief respite for lunch, unfortunately weather was still not great, a quick wonder in some of the shops, I had forgotten how much I like Winchester, a coffee and cookie in a coffee shop to warm up. I returned to the hall for the afternoon session which was about the magazine itself, its conception to where it is now, about reviews and Alison who coordinates it all and about the French retreat which sounds idyllic and if it was at a time when I could get off work, I would love to go.

It was an interesting day, with a lovely goodie bag to take home with a couple of books, in which I ended up swapping one of them on the train station with a fellow attendee because she had read it, so I got VIII by H.M. Castor and Watchman by Ian Rankin (which I was pleased about as never read any Rankin). From the book swap, I got The Confession of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn and I did have another one in my hand but I was convinced I already had it at home so I put it back (I did not I since discovered). Some lovely cards and a readers journal made for a pleasant poking about in the bag whilst waiting for the train home.

There I got talking to two ladies, who live relatively near me and we swapped thoughts on the day (besides books) as well as some recommendations for future events – West Meon Festival of Books (I have since book for three of the events) and the Guildford Book Festival Readers Day in October which I am going to try and go to.

The train journey back home was far less traumatic, I think I was so tired I just let it all wash over me. I was grateful for the car at the station as the thought of walking home in the wet and rather damp atmosphere did not fill my heart with joy. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and was really inspired and stimulated, it has given me great thought, especially as I have not been exactly challenged at work and that I know one thing, I absolutely love reading!