Books

Readers Day – Guildford Book Festival

This is my second year of attending the Guildford Book Festival Readers Day. I wish I could have attended many more events there, however I have a full time job and although Guildford is not far in the car (or by train) it would work out expensive. So in the end I decided I would stick to the Readers Day which they hold as I think you get pretty good value for money all in! Last year when I went I spent a lot of time taking notes from all the discussions from the authors – this year as I did for an early event I attended I decided to sit there and just make some small notes and absorb the whole thing. I am sure I missed something but I can say I did thoroughly enjoy it and it reminded me how much I miss ‘learning’.

I think that is why I read so much and then review the books, it keeps the old grey matter turning over. The job fills in the rest of that but that is mainly dealing with numbers – I hope I have achieved a happy balance.

I digress you really want to know who I saw don’t you? Ok here is the list

Charlotte Mendelson – Never read any of her novels, Almost English which is the book she touched upon is now on my wish list and she was very interesting to listen to. She definitely recommended reading The Luminaries the recent Booker winner (handy as that has arrived to my shelf – it is so huge that it might need a shelf of its own) as well as Life after Life – Kate Atkinson (ooo I have read that!) and anything by Elizabeth Taylor especially The Wedding Group. I read one of Taylor’s last year so hope to expand my reading of this author. She also said don’t be put off by reading War and Peace – break it down and crack on with reading it.

Jessica Ruston – Another author who I have never read any of her books and I also took the risk of being in her breakout session to talk about her latest novel The Lies You Told Me. A book that has gone on my list but I have just bought her first novel. A woman as old as me who has a great way with words and actually made the observation that as the author 3/4 of the story is with them the other 1/4 that’s with the reader. And how right she is. Which is why we all get different things from books and see what others cannot see and vice versa.

Sophie Hardach – yes another author whose books I have not read. And who surprised everyone by saying that her desert island book would be Bleak House. I think she surprised herself too! I found her quite nervous and she did rather speak as she had rehearsed it and from a script, not quite as natural as the others.

Nigel Farndale – yes you guessed it – I have not read The Blasphemer. But I have read some of his articles in The Telegraph but I don’t think that counts does it?  He talked about what he likes to read o holiday and most recently read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and enjoyed it. It is good to know that authors/journalists read the hype books as much as us authors.

Laurie Graham – well I started her book At Sea whilst on the way to Guildford. I had to stop it was making me ill. Not the book, the reading while travelling bit. But I did want to read more. I did and the review will follow on this blog at some point in the future. However, I thought she was quite a private lady and she did not seem to be that forthcoming about wanting to sign the book I had, which did put me off a bit. She did comment that she was glad to see that cover around. Her comfort books which is what she spoke about were a varied choice and the one that stuck in my mind was Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome, this got a good recognition from the audience and one I must perhaps look into at some point.

Judith Kinghorn – Yes an author I have read. In fact I have read all of  her novels and I was very excited to be able to press the flesh and get my copy of The Memory of Lost Senses signed personally. It was very interesting to hear about how the book came to fruition – the first she wrote the second that she published. I was also pleased to be acknowledged as a twitter stalker follower and it was just nice to hear her talk and all the inspiration that she has had for her novels and how her third is being plotted as well. I cannot wait to read it.

Judith also mentioned about the authors/characters that she would most like to invite to dinner , sparked an idea in my mind. She wanted to invite all these wonderful dead women authors to ‘Deceased Literary Women Inaugural Dinner’; The likes of Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys, Rosamund Lehman, Sylvia Plath to name a few and see how well they interacted with each other and also who would try and come out on top literary wise. Judith had obviously given this a lot of thought and I wonder whether there could be a book club/reading group potential in the idea of Deceased Literary Women Dinner or DLWD for short?

Mark Mills – hey yes I have read his books as well and have his latest to read, need to get round to that. Mark Mills was lucky enough to be picked for a Richard and Judy choice and that is where I have discovered him from. So very different books and it sounds like his latest The Long Shadow is different again. I also learnt that he wrote screenplays and was involved in such areas of film as was Jessica Ruston. Who would Mark liked to have asked to dinner – well probably all of Judith’s choices but also Boris Pasternak of Doctor Zhivago fame. I had no idea that that was his only major and notable work and that it had in the main been written long before it was published but had to be kept a secret due to the volatile state of Russia.

Mike Gayle – Yep him too! I have read a few of Mike Gayle’s novels when I was in my early twenties. They were in some ways transition books between the teenage and the adult for me. But I read them at a time when I was devouring such books as those by Jane Green, Adele Parks, Lisa Jewell. Interestingly I have slowly started gong back to these authors now. I wonder why? He was a wonderfully funny man and shared the moment when he was hooked on reading – Tess of the D’urbervilles did for him. Although like everyone he wishes he could have written Harry Potter, he wishes perhaps something along the lines of Just William or should that have been Just Mike? And did you ever know that he was the agony uncle for Just Seventeen magazine – oh how that brought back happy memories, I remember reading that magazine! Oh how old I feel and as his new book Turning Forty which follows on from Turning Thirty I wonder whether I need to reread Turning Thirty (It was early twenties I read it) as I am approaching the Turning Forty mark. Lets just not think about it.

So there you go, that is who I saw, hopefully it gives a flavour of what I have picked up. It was all wonderfully held together by Guy from newbooks magazine who do their own readers day. I was a bit disappointed that there was not much choice of books to buy, I actually did not buy any! (I have since made up for that mind you) The goody bag was not a cloth one like last year – and the choice of books was rather limited, but that is me being really picky.

The venue, a new one for this years was excellent and it did not feel as crowded and there was no need to be taken all over the building for the breakout sessions. Although there was a bit of confusion to start with about where to go – maybe a couple of signs might have helped. The lunch was better than last year, more spread out and easier to get to, plus plenty of seconds. Although I have to confess not as good as the one at the newbooks readers day.

Everyone I spoke to was very friendly and there was a good mix of an audience, still female dominated but I think it always will be at these events. For £28 this was a day which gave you excellent value for money and you were with like-minded people. Obviously it costs more in the long run because then you have to go buy all the authors books and all the recommendations that are thrown around the room!

I hope it goes ahead next year and I will certainly being booking a place. It makes no difference whether you have read any of the authors or even heard of any I think it is a good way to expand your literary knowledge and shrink your bank balance!

Books

At Sea – Laurie Graham

Enid thinks she knows her husband and after twenty years of marriage she is sure she does. However, when on a cruise where her husband is a lecturer a passenger recognises him – but not as Bernard Finch as Willy Fink.

All of a sudden Enid’s life takes a different view. Not only is she learning about her husband she is also learning how to enjoy herself with the fellow passengers. No more does she want to be cooped up in a cabin trying to remain aloof just because her husband is a lecturer and conducting tours off from the ship when they dock.

And so as the cruise continues you see Enid break out and break away, her almost innocent discovery of the internet is tinged with sadness as she realise how far away she is from so many other people, including her husband.

Bernard on the other hand is trying to hold onto the past, through his lectures and tours and his wife. However it is the past which is the problem for Bernard and those with long memories have decided that the past should have a great effect on the present. For Bernard it has an impact on the future too.

This is a novel, where you are aware of certain facts early on, the author is trusting your intelligence to understand about Bernard and his relationship with Enid. His arrogance at his own position, which is tested throughout the novel and the airs and graces which he inflicts on his wife and others makes him a character that you can dislike and dislike well. I never at any point felt sorry for him or doubted these feelings. The sign of a well written character. Enid is the polar opposite and you can feel for her and you do wonder why, but you know if you stick with the novel you will see Enid not necessarily seek revenge but seek a new path which overwhelming satisfaction for herself and the reader.

I was hooked by the idea of a lot of characters effectively trapped in a situation (being on a cruise) and being forced together in situations where you have nowhere to hide and if you do it seems to make the problems worse. A great read if you want a book with a bit of substance and it was not a predictable ending at all, in fact it left you with a couple of questions that needed answering – the book stays with you a while. I recommend.

This is the first Laurie Graham book I have read but in fact the second that I have owned. Why? I don’t know. I picked up The Homemakers of America many moons ago as it seemed my sort of book, but for one reason or another I never got round to reading it. It got moved about sort of started then back on a shelf until during a cull one day it went to another home. I picked this book up i the bookshop as the cover and the blurb on the back struck a chord. Again the book sat on my shelf a while. It was not until I knew I was going to see Laurie Graham talk at the Guildford Readers Day that I thought I should pick it up and at least make some sort of effort.

I started on the train up there, but had to put it down as I get rather motion sick which was a shame as I was hooked and wanted to read more. And now having read it I would like to visit more of  her novels. 

Books

1105 Yakima Street – Debbie Macomber

Here we are back in Cedar Cove for the penultimate story. Although you can get a fair sense of the book if you joined the series now, you certainly do not get the warmth and friendship that runs between all the characters if you had started at the beginning, which I recommend.

So who is uppermost in the story in this book. Well when we left the last book Rachel had left her new husband and stepdaughter. Pregnant and alone, their story is one which is carried through well in this book and deals with a love triangle. The love triangle is actually a jealousy one between Rachel, Bruce her husband and Jolene his daughter. Bruce has his head in the sand and it is going to take some shocks to get him to understand exactly what has happened to his life. Hopefully they can get everything back, but it might not be as easy as he first thought. Bruce’s parenting skills are tested.

Then there is Will, pig-headed and stubborn and has yet to understand why women are suddenly not falling for his charm and sophistication any more. The latest rejection in fact gets married and Will is most put out. Little does he realise that actually there is someone right under his nose if only he would look more closely. Trouble is the person is not falling for his charm and is in fact rather annoying – or is she? Everyone else can see what is so obvious that it becomes a bit of a test.

Will’s mother, Charlotte and her husband Ben have some life changing moments and they have to realise for themselves, that perhaps it is time to move on and that might just require some help. Their daughter Olivia is all too glad to help when they temporarily cannot live in their home, but it becomes a changing moment for her as well as her mother. Olivia still recovering from cancer, has to look after herself and is not sure she can also care for her elderly mother. There is an alternative but it is up to Charlotte and Ben, they might just need pointing in the right direction and hopefully they will find their way there.

The beauty of these books is the interlinking with all the characters, so follow this. Ben’s (mentioned above) son David is the father of Mary Jo’s daughter. Mary Jo’s brother is Linc Wyse and his new wife Lori are also featured quite heavily in this story. They are having a testing start to their marriage. The only person doing the testing though is Lori’s father who is doing everything he can to ruin it. It seems to be at a cost though to his own marriage and it looks like Lori is going to have to step in to help.

And so life goes by in Cedar Cove and when you read any of these books, you are getting a glimpse into all these people’s lives. Grace and Cliff Harding are here and trying to come to terms with all things dog like. Corrie and Roy McAfee are still coming to terms with the Gloria’s presence and news and Mack (married to Mary Jo above – all cyclical) seems to have finally found contentment.

With the last visit to Cedar Cove in the next book, I am going to miss the friends that I have made whilst enjoying these light reads. Recommended if you want that companionship from a book now and again.

I have actually read all of the Cedar Cove series now and although I read most of them in order, I did actually start with Book 5 and read Book 12 before reading Book 9! You can still get a real sense of the place and the people but I think it always best to read them in order. More than likely that is because I am a organised and structured sort of person! I am going to put up a page with a link to all the reviews for this series that I have read, and hopefully develop it with some more of the series of other authors that I am enjoying. In the meantime I will be joining Debbie Macomber on her Blossom Street Series and have the first book, although unbeknown to me I have already read book 5 of this series back in 2010. 

Books

The French House – Nick Alexander

How often do you make an assumption about a book?

I made three judgements based purely on the books cover, the author name and the blurb on the back. So what did I think I was going to get.

A female author, a chick lit fluffy read, and a standalone book.

But I was wrong on all three accounts. It is a sequel to The Case of the Missing Boyfriend. But that does not actually matter if you pick up this novel. There is enough background covered for you to understand what happened before. It can work well as a stand alone novel, it gives an element of mystery to the novel and its characters where you can fill in the characters back stories yourself. ….. But you certainly don’t need to have read the book to enjoy the story that unfolds.

Nick Alexander is male and I was most surprised has he has written a very a good female character in this case CC and seems to have got into her psyche and under her skin to develop her so we as readers can see the struggles she is facing by uprooting herself to a country where she hardly speaks the language and to a house which is barely standing some of the time.

And well I thought is was going to be dreamy, romantic about moving to a house in France and doing it up, and despite some hurdles it would all be right in the end. It was not at all fluffy. It had some bleak moments, described through the weather that was hampering any progress on this house. The lack of belief that Victor, CC’s boyfriend had in the strange goings on in the house made me doubt so much that CC had done the right thing in her move to France and trying to embrace the culture and Victor’s family. You had to hope that she was right and it was not all a figment of her imagination.

It did have elements of humour in it, you would have to laugh at being stuck in a camper van whilst you watched your dream house rising from nowhere with some very slow builders who had some strange ideas of work ethic.

This is not a cheery happy romantic book,; although I do not deny that it is a really a romantic novel, it has some rather stark elements to it and perhaps some of it  is a bit far-fetched. I would recommend reading it as the premise of the novel is a good one – woman gives up everything to be with man in new country, rebuilding a property and having to deal with his rather eccentric family who seem to not like the woman. But do not pick up this book if you want a fluffy read, it will not fulfil that criteria.

I think I acquired this book from a goody bag from a readers day and I was fully aware of it as I had seen it pop up on Kindle quite a lot when it was fairly cheap. In some ways I am glad I read it but also glad I did not pay money for it. I think I would have been disappointed if I had. It has not grabbed me enough to go and read the book before this one, but it has taught me not to make assumptions about what you are going to get when you pick up a book. 

Jottings

Jottings #13 Surveys

You have to love a survey. There are so many around and fill many a page on newspapers, in magazines and now on this blog.

However, I am going to point you in the direction of the Book Blogger Survey which I took part in a while back. Well the results are in, the votes have been counted and the judges have made their decision. The results are in four posts:

River City Reading – Your Blogs Interesting how many blogs are between 3-4 years old, which is where about I am at the moment. 2-3 times a week seems to be the norm in terms of posting. It was also pleasing to see that Twitter is the place to be to be involved in promoting your blog and interacting on all things literary. I agree with this and have had much more interaction through twitter which has led me to authors and publishers and the opportunities to read more books. Though maybe I should have bought shares in it!

Sophisticated Dorkiness – Blogger Attitudes The pressure to read and reviews books from publishers has in the past somewhat overwhelmed me before. It took me a while to work out that I could blitz through the books I have been sent and pass them on to people who will read them. There should never be any pressure to read something, it should always be a pleasure.

I think the pressure from others to read certain books leads to the apathy that we all get from time to time with our blogging. I have certainly felt it recently, and taking a break no matter how long or short seems to be the most common way of dealing with it. As is scheduling posts, which I do a lot of. If I have a back log of books to review then I schedule them in, it is only the more personal posts such as these which drop in from time to time when I get the urge to write and share with you all. Most of the time it is a cathartic process.

Literate Housewife – Former Bloggers. I do wonder if there will come a point when I become a former blogger. I have blogged before I started this one and it was a way of concentrating my mind due to some health issues and was my way of dealing with it, however it served its purpose as did playing endless online games and I abandoned it. However bringing this blog to life was much for sharing the reading I do and my poor attempt at wit and humour in writing but was the admiration of many other bloggers out there who were reading books that I had not even heard of. I was on the book blogging train and I was away.

It seems that life changes affect most blogs being abandoned or at least put on hiatus. I think reading the results that it came to a work/life balance issue and that the fun out of blogging and perhaps reviewing was subsiding as there was a pressure to post. Obviously there has been issues where people did not like comments made by others, but I have to think this is fairly small in the book blogging sphere and if it is much larger it is certainly passing me by. Some interestingly did not feel they had the audience they needed. I can understand that as when you start out you want everyone to think yours is the best book blog ever and there should be thousands of people reading it. This lasted with me about a nanosecond.

My reason for starting the blog is to keep all the reviews and book stuff in one place as some sort of giant reference book for me. It is a bonus that I have readers and I thank all those who comment and those who don’t but do read my blog. I have changed my blog over time and as I change and my reading changes no doubt the blog will continue to change.

Sophisticated Dorkiness – Reading Habits and Milestones The overwhelming result here is that book bloggers are reading more widely. I concur 100%. I would never have read any Mary Stewart for example if it was not for blogging or Katie Fforde who I came across and wondered why I had not read her books before. So it has widen my reading, shrunken my bank balance and brought me so much pleasure. I read a lot more crime and thriller books now thanks to blogs and the lovely publishers out there as well.

And it is of course great to know that I am not weird and there are many people out there who read just as much as me and some rather quirky reads as well! Who cares if some think it is just a load of tosh you are reading. I am reading and I get so much joy and pleasure from it.

Am I an established Book Blogger? I don’t think I can answer that, surely that is up to those who read and comment on my blog.

Do pop along and read some of these posts, they are very interesting and although it is in no way a scientific study I think it gives you a feel of what the book blogging community is like.

Books · Jottings

Book Club #17 – The Little Village School – Gervase Phinn

This was W’s choice for this month’s book club. We all decided it was a welcome change from some of the rather heavy going and page turning books of late.

K loved it, it was her sort of book and just like me, did not want it to end. C said she read it one sitting as it was that sort of book and brought with her some Viennese biscuits for us to share (you must have read the book to understand this reference). It took L a while to work out why she had brought them!

It was a book which had some really great characters in, the way the headmistress was described as an outsider coming into this little village with her red shoes and silver heels – she was our kind of lady. Then the delightful names that the author, who no one else had heard of except for myself and W. They all created images in our head and we discussed how it could quite easily be turned into one of those ‘Sunday night dramas’. We can imagine a Chardonnay being a right little madam! C (our resident midwife – not compulsory at a book group) told of a recent child named Baby Doll. Yes you read that right – Baby Doll. Words failed us all.

We were all moved by the lovely story of the boy and his grandfather and a tear was shed as he lost the man who had loved him and brought him up. There was also an element of mystery to this book and the new headteacher. It was nice to see that everything was not so perfect in this little village and that the headteacher’s own child had issues and was one of the reasons she moved to the job. It showed a lot of gutsy women who are getting on with their lives and making others lives possible.

This is a book which left us feeling heart warmed and also that if someone outside of this country wanted to get a rose tinted view of life in England this is probably a good book to start off with. Some of the humour might pass them by, as we all believed that British humour and probably Yorkshire humour is so unique that it would not make sense to so many.

I think W has converted some readers to Gervase Phinn and the subsequent books will certainly be read I am sure.

And as for the Viennese biscuits well they were demolished and certainly not as unpleasant as those in the book.

Books

The Little Village School – Gervase Phinn

A Yorkshire village, everyone knows what goes on in their own lives (obviously) but also that of the other residents and even those in neighbouring villages. When a newcomer arrives they are always going to cause a stir.

In this case the newcomer Elisabeth Devine, with her red shoes with silver heels of all things is going to really cause a stir. Elisabeth is the new headteacher at The Little Village School. She is something a mysterious character, in fact she has some secrets of her own and coming from an inner city school, she assumes that no one is that interested in her or her life.

All she wants to do is the best for the pupils that are in her care. The trouble is the school that she has become head of is facing many problems. The previous headmistress was something of a tartar, who rarely left her office and left the school as soon as the bell went. The deputy head cannot simply control the children in her care and they are not learning anything. There has been a failing inspection report to deal with, the other teachers are on temporary contracts and the parents are taking the pupils out of the school. It seems that Elisabeth has made the wrong move when she came to the school.

However, slowly things start to change, Elisabeth has a determination that none of the other villagers have ever seen before. It has a marked effect on her fellow teachers, especially when she splits up the groups and actually teaches herself. The pupils seem to be gaining in confidence and she knows who needs help, when and how. After school clubs are growing and even the Deputy Head seems to have found a new lease of life and has finally stepped out of the shadow of the previous head teacher and even her own mother.

There are some though who are suspicious and Elisabeth has to deal with some parents who feel that their child is being victimised. A board of governors who are split about the school and a local council and education department who are determined that this little village school will be affected by the cutbacks. The strength of feeling in the village is strong and suddenly the lady who swept in with her red shoes is making an impact that ripples out to many.

This is a wonderful story if you like school tales, it is a wonderful story if you like village tales. It combines the most innocent things that children say, the tragedies that many encounter in life and give it a good dose of true Britishness. Yes it might seem all rose-tinted to many but the humour is so very British and the characters although seem parodies of themselves are no doubt spot on. You have the lady that runs the village store and post office, who of course knows everything that is going on and is not one to gossip. She is trying to palm off the Viennese biscuit selection she has. The caretaker with the perpetual bad back who suddenly has a miraculous recovery when the local doctor says it is time for the operation. The vicar and his wife, two very different people. The local farmer and his rights of way for his herd. And so it goes on.

Gervase Phinn captures the innocence of everything and weaves a really good old fashioned tale, which has tragedy and heartache and made me weep a couple of times, with sheer will and determination that can show you how much one person can improve something and how it can inspire and please so many. Even the characters names reflect the characters themselves. You can imagine what Miss Sowerbutts is like from her name, the images that is conjures up is wonderful.

I look forward to reading the next instalment.

This was my book club choice for October. I already had it on my shelf as I have read many of Gervase Phinn’s autobiographical work and knew what I was getting was going to be good, if not great. It was. I was expecting some familiar jokes I have read before but I could count them on one hand. However, the storyline was good and whilst some may say simple, it is that which makes it a joy to read. 

I loved all the characters, the sour faced old headmistress. The mother of the Deputy Head who was convinced she was going to be placed in a home down to the wonderful shop owner who seemed to be a female version of Arkwright from Open All Hours. More so I enjoyed this book, because my late grandmother is from Yorkshire and I have relatives up there and as the words of Phinn’s novel came alive I could hear the voices so clearly in my head and some of the little sayings were oh so familiar. 

Simply I loved it, can you tell. 

I will let you know what my book club thought about it soon. 

Books

The Pirates! in an Adventure with Communists – Gideon Defoe

There is a lot that the Pirate Captain has done so far in his travels, he has faced Moby Dick and also rescued and sailed with Charles Darwin. Of course there has to be some inevitability that he will meet Communists. It is such a varied life that the Pirate Captain leads.

On their way to London, to buy a new suit for the Captain, the whole crew seem to get into some sort of bother. The Pirate Captain is arrested for being Karl Marx, it is quite obvious that he isn’t as his beard is far superior to that of Marx. But it leads to the possibility that these communists are caught up in some sort of plot and being blamed for everything.

The crew move to Paris, where the sample the delights that the city has to offer; splitting up they simlutaneoulsy experience the Mona Lisa

“It lacks a certain something”, said the pirate with gout.

Some went to see Madame Tussauds;

“Do you suppose they have nipples?”, the pirate with a peg-leg wondered out loud. trying to peer down Nell Gwyn’s top.

The rest went to see the Folies Bergere;

“I heard that they don’t wear any knickers when they do they cancan!” said the pirate with rickets.

In the meantime the Pirate Captain starts to help Marx so his name and that of the communists is not blackened. They all need a plan.

“…you see this is why it pays to think plans through past the very first bit. Really that’s what distinguishes  “a plan” from “running about in a flap”.”

Somehow this motley crew of pirates and their Pirate Captain, live to fight another day.

These books are funny, they are wry and have a historical slant to them. Sometimes a bit near the mark if you are letting youngsters read them, but that said they would probably not get the references at all. Anything you may not be sure of, Gideon Defoe gives us footnotes. If you want something that is light and not demanding then this is the book for you. I am not a fan of comic novels, but these really hit the spot and I cannot wait to join the Captain Pirate for more adventures soon. And of course the final philosophical word should go to the Pirate Captain ” Life is like a big shanty. Everything will be fine so long as everyone sings in harmony”. How true that is and how it applies to so much.

I do so enjoy these books and I haven’t even seen the film yet of the first adventure. I think this is as close as I am going to get to a comic and illustrated novel at the moment. I look forward to reading the next one, Napoleon and the Romantics. They also are books which look good on a shelf together. 

Books

October Roundup

Someone pinch me – I think I have missed October. It seems to have gone by in a flash and I have been busy with trips to Knitting and Stitching shows, Guildford Book Festival as well as work. It has never been a dull day and whilst I do not enjoy sitting in on disciplinary, return to works, etc I have enjoyed the challenge. But then I have enjoyed winding up the grandmother clock that sits in our foyer (it has somehow got to be my job) as well as being Princess Anne and ordering snowballs! Variation and the ability to be able multi task and drop from one thing to another is paramount in my job, even more so in October. Please let November be a quieter month……

But as for the reading this month, variation still has to be the key, but it has taken a rather easy read, know what you are getting kind of stance. And not a crime book in sight!

Familiarity although they say it breeds contempt it actually brings joy and this is why I have read two Joanne Fluke novels this month Cherry Cheesecake Murder and Key Lime Pie Murder. In quick succession as well, which I seem to do with the books. They are great cosy crime and just what you need when the brain is somewhat stretched to capacity.

Whilst knowing what you are getting can be a good thing, sometimes you also need to have a laugh and this is where Gideon Defoe – The Pirates in an Adventure with Communists* came in. I do heartily (said with a ooargghh pirate voice) recommend these books both for adults and children alike. An adventure with a few life lessons thrown in for good measure that you don’t even realise it.

If you want even more of a laugh then I can certainly recommend anything by Gervase Phinn. His autobiographical tales of a Yorkshire School Inspector have made me howl laughing on more than one occasion. The Little Village School* is his first foray into adult fiction and I was worried that perhaps it may cause me to become complacent because I had heard the stories before and they were just being regurgitated into a fictional form, I was much mistaken. This was a book which had a good storyline and I actually did not want to finish it. My Book Club choice for October and one that actually went down very well.

I could have stuck to tried and tested authors this month, but I did branch out with a few that I have never read before. First up was Milly Johnson – An Autumn Crush. A book I picked up in a charity shop and it had been on my shelf for a while and I thought as Autumn has now dawned it might make an appropriate reading start. I enjoyed it and can see why Milly is a much desired author and I have another author who no doubt I can turn to when I just want to read and close the book, having enjoyed it but not necessarily need to think about it any more. Believe you me there are times when you need that with a book.

Sticking with new authors, The French House – Nick Alexander* was another book I had acquired (I think as part of a goody bag) and had been languishing on my shelf for a while. I was expecting something and had made assumptions about this book, and whilst I got some of what I thought, it did really surprise me. Sometimes it pays to pick randomly off your shelf.

Laurie Graham – At Sea*. Was both a random choice, in terms of buying the book. I was intrigued by the blurb but also the fact that I was seeing her at the Guildford Book Festival Readers Day (more about that soon I promise). I did not start the book until the morning of going and could not read much on the train as I felt rather motion sick. However, the writing and the story line was rather fascinating and I really enjoyed it. Surprising as I had one of her books on my shelf many many years ago and tried to read it and just could not get into it. The book got given away, I might just have to revisit that book at some point.

There was a book this month that I did pick up and put down and it will just be a book that is not going to be and that is Half Blood Blues – Esi Edugyan. It just was not working for me and I have read something lovely reviews on the book. I tried with it and realised that no, I had to put it down. I really could not get my head around the writing and the language used in the dialogue and so it has gone on another journey. I am slowly learning that you have to do that with books and not be afraid to.

When it comes to sorting out books and passing them on, I go through stages of sorting and either selling, donating to charity, passing onto friends when it looks like the books are going to overtake my flat. I am very lucky that I get sent quite a lot of review copies and for that I am much grateful, but I do have to have a purge and pass on those I can because I know I am never going to read them. Amongst this latest task I came across Janey Fraser – Happy Families* and had to make a decision yes or no. I decided yes and within a few days I had read the book and so that is another one off the pile of review books that I have read.

As the month of October closes, I have picked up the November Book Club choice which is Barack Obama, Dreams of My Father. A very different book and one I would not have chosen, so far it is fascinating. I wonder what other fascinating reads November will bring me?

*Book review yet to appear on this blog.