Books · Jottings

March Roundup

March has been another month with it seems not much reading. Although the books I have read have been varied in nature and good so I cannot complain even if I am about 5 books behind ‘schedule’ to read 100 in a year. I am hoping that with a long bank holiday weekend coming up at the end of this week and then a weeks holiday four days later that I will catch up on the reading.

There seems to be a trend at the moment where I am reading one book on my kindle and then one physical book. It is not intentional, but mainly because I have got some fantastic books on my kindle thanks to netgalley and I have a miniscule bit of guilt for requesting them and not reading them!

March’s kindle reads have been all female writers; 1 new to me and 2 old favourites.

The Dish by Stella Newman* I had seen around but for whatever did not gravitate to. However, I suddenly read a bit more about the book and thought it might make a nice diversion even if at times it was a slightly longer diversion.

It seems like ages since I have read any of Nicky Pellegrino and it was 2012 to be precise. Again when I saw her newest novel up on netgalley, I thought it was a must read. If there is any pone author who is guaranteed to give you sunshine, warmth, good food and a story in the depths of winter as it turns to spring then you will not go far wrong with Summer in Venice*. The book is not actually published until May 2015 and as I have yet to hear back from the publisher I don’t want to post my review just yet.

Of course another sure-fire hit is Trisha Ashley – Creature Comforts*. I admit to be weary about this as I had read an older novel at the beginning of the year and it did not really do it for me. I blame myself because in fact this is a great book and need not worry. In fact this book introduces something that has never really featured in Trisha’s novels before…… you will have to wait until my review to find out.

Back in the physical book world I could say that I have read a book that is older than me, one that has been languishing on my shelf for rather a long  time and a brand new novel!

In reverse order I have read the latest Christopher Fowler – A Burning Man which is the twelfth outing of the wonderfully eccentric Bryant and May. My review can be found here. I was delighted to receive a proof copy of the book, as well as the finished hardback. I am not really sure what I should do with the proof copy now? However, what I am even more thrilled about is that the author himself, yes Christopher Fowler found the time to comment on my review! He likes talking to real readers. I think that is what I am. I am certainly going to look out for Christopher Fowler at any events that may be near to me in the future.

The Rose of Sebastopol – Katharine McMahon* has been on the shelf for too long. In fact it might well have moved with me some near 6 years ago? Nonetheless March was the time for me to read it, I was after some historical fiction and having read a previous novel and seen her speak on more than one occasion I thought it was about time to read the book that Richard and Judy raved about. I now know why it was such a popular read and it made me even more keen to read more of the historical fiction I have languishing on my shelves.

Agatha Christie – The Moving Finger is a television adaption I have seen more than once in both Miss Marple’s reincarnations on the screen. I had never read the book and in my life long mission to read all of her works, I decided it was time to pull the book off my mum’s shelf and read it. Delightful as they always are and another one crossed off the list.

March has seen me posting also about some books from the past that I have reviewed and have never featured much on my blog. This has stemmed from film versions I have either seen myself or have seen advertised. I think I will dig around my old amazon reviews again and see what else is out there to share.

I have also felt the urge to blog more about stuff I am doing which has been a diversion from the book posts that some people are used to. I hope you enjoy them, let me know I always like reading comments and I try to get around to as many blogs as I can to read what you have all been up to and what you have been reading!

* Book review yet to appear on blog.



Some Snippets

Watching – The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Having only just seen the first one on dvd and being a great fan of Dame’s Maggie and Judi, as well as Celia Imrie et al. I wanted to see the next one – it does not disappoint.

Eating – Oat Biscuits. I have been playing with recipes in making oat biscuits without sugar or very little, and also been throwing in fruit, nuts and choc chips to make them a bit different. They have been a bit hit and miss but more hit than miss. They make for a great filling snack and hopefully avoiding all the naughtier stuff!

Reading – The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler. I wasn’t sure I was going to get it read and reviewed by the publication date and did not want to promise something I could not deliver to the publisher. However, I picked it up and was enthralled and now all I want to do is go and read all the Bryant and May books together.

Saying Goodbye – All change at the top. One Captain leaves, another one joins. The process is seamless.

Writing – all about my pottery and my socks as I inspired myself last week. Look out for the posts soon.

Sorting – it must be something to do with being spring. I started with all the book paraphernalia I have accumulated since I started receiving books from publishers. I have kept all the press releases of the ones that I have read. Could someone tell me why? And do I really need to keep them? I can’t quite at the moment seem to bring myself to throw them in the recycling bin!

As you can see I enjoyed last weeks I thought I would share some more things this week. All very different, just like life. Certainly this post has been handy in getting some of the stuff whirring about in my head out and also germinated an idea for another post!

Do pop along to see Making it Up where I got the idea of the snippets from.


The Burning Man – Christopher Fowler

The detective duo of Arthur Bryant and John May are back in this their twelfth book. If you have  never read any of the Bryant and May series before then you need to know – both Bryant and May are detectives in the PCU – that is the Peculiar Crimes Unit. A unit which is full of waifs and strays, people with eccentricities that no other unit within the police would put up with. And you are never quite sure how old Bryant and May actually are.

You can pick these books up in any part of the series, they read as standalone novels and this one is no different.

London seems to be caught up in unrest. There is rioting, buildings are being damaged and fires are being started. London is at risk of the mob taking control. The reason for this unrest – a banking scandal. Is it covering something else up when a man is killed during the riots?

Then other deaths occur, nothing seems to link them. It is just a tragic coincidence. But for Bryant and May they follow a simple ABC. “Assume nothing. Believe Nobody. Check Everything”.

And so what develops is a mystery to many but Bryant especially it has all the peculiarities of something long past and something that should perhaps not be forgotten.

The riots are an interesting background to use for the plot line for this book, and I think they give a good example of society today, which is perhaps a sad indication of the way society has moved…

“I hate what I see around me…The urban middle class destroyed, the working poor exploited, the vulgar rich elevated to eminence, the underclass demonized, the wasteland of celebrity held in veneration”.

The role of this unit is to find all the missing pieces however bizarre and whatever unorthodox methods are available and come to a conclusion…… “not for what we know but for what we don’t know, and that is why we are detectives, because we always want to finish the picture.”

And as the tale weaves the realistic and unbelievable moments together, as well as some rather graphic descriptions which are not for the squeamish, so seamlessly that you become involved in the case and start to care about all those who are in the unit. With probably the exception of Raymond Land, the Unit Chief who seems to be missing out on actual policing and the pleasure of teamwork and actually solving crimes.

If anything this book is so relevant of what is going on in the country now and although perhaps we have not got to the stage of such riots and fire the banking scandals struck a chord and it felt like I was reading newspapers about recent banking and expenses scandal or watching continual news feed of such events which seem to have fired a nation into wanting the truth. The Peculiar Crime Unit wants the truth and so did I as the book reached its conclusion.

Although the plot and background events are very much of a modern era, Bryant and May are not, they are detectives of a past age, ones who do things their way and get results, much to the chagrin Raymond Land, the City of London police and the Metropolitan police. This coupled with the wry observations which make you smile as well as the historical elements to the novel make this a definite read for 2015. If you want to experience Bryant and May then this is a good book to start with.

Thank you to Doubleday for providing me with a copy of this book. The Burning Man is out today in hardback. 

I have previously only read two Bryant and May novels and have always enjoyed them, especially the eccentricity and the historical elements of them. I must not wait so long before reading another! 


The Moving Finger – Agatha Christie

After surviving an air crash Jerry Burton and his sister Joanna, need to go somewhere tranquil, peaceful preferably a village in the English Countryside where nothing much ever happens and nothing much to tax the brain.

It is that which brings them to Lymstock but they seem to land straight into the middle of a village who are on the receiving end of something very nasty.

Poison Pen letters.

Everyone is getting them, the vicar, the doctor, the solicitor, the maids, everyone it seems. It spares no one, or does it? Does the one person it spares identifies the culprit?

And now despite being newcomers, Jerry and Joanna are subjected to this vicious poison and deadly gossip.

This wonderful Agatha Christie novel, is told from the perspective of Jerry whose convalescence is taken up with solving the mystery and the murder. He has the answer, it is straight under his nose but he seems to have lost all sense of what is there in front of him. As for his cosmopolitan sister, she seems to have taken to village life rather more than he ever thought she would. It looks like Jerry and Joanna are going to take very different paths.

Eventually Jerry needs some assistance in getting to the conclusion, he has seen all along. In steps the wonderful Miss Marple. This is a Miss Marple story and where she appears in the last 40 pages of the book, the last quarter of it, I did wonder how she was going to make an appearance, as the story progresses you cannot see how she can possibly fit in and bring all the answers.

With Christie’s writing she does of course bring Miss Marple in to merely just point Jerry back to what he knew…. “that woman knows more about the different kinds of human wickedness than anyone I’ve ever known”.

Of course every loose end, red herring is all settled and the answer of course was always under Jerry’s nose (as well as us as readers!). A good example of Christie’s work, but not a story which is full of Miss Marple, so you may be disappointed.

I was trying to find in vain, the cover of the copy of the book I read. Taken from my mum’s bookshelf. I came across many

But I had to resort to taking a photo of the copy I read from:

moving finger

I knew who the murderer was in this book as I have watched the Geraldine McEwan, adaptation of the story a few times. It was still good to see how they stuck fairly faithful to the story, although in the television series, Miss Marple appears much earlier. It also meant I was on the look out for the clues and the red herrings along the way. I am not sure I found or spotted them all, but it was still a good read and ticks another Christie book off my list. 

Books · Crafts · Cross Stitch · Jottings · Knitting

Jottings #16 Spring has Sprung in Snippets

It has been a while since I have had a jottings post (over a year!), or told you about some of the stuff going on. Books seem to have taken over, which is a good thing when this is primarily a book blog. However sometimes I need to remind myself and readers that I am a human and that life happens!

Back in September I got to meet Jax Blunt who blogs over here. She does a really lovely snippets post every week telling us all what she (and her family) have all been getting up to, reading, watching, eating etc. I thought it would be a lovely idea to borrow and therefore……..

Watching – Poldark. I have vague recollection of a repeat of the original series, when I was a small person. I do know it was one of my paternal grandmother’s favourite series and books. I am enjoying it and have bought the first two books to have a go at reading the stories as well.

Reading according to goodreads I am about 4 books behind on my target for the year. (Shrugs Shoulders) but the books I am reading are good and it seems that closing my eyes has been more beneficial than reading of late. However my latest read is the latest Christopher Fowler – The Burning Man (Bryant & May series) and it is out on 26 March. I hope to have a review of the book up by next weekend as I am more than halfway through now.

Eating –  too much. I had lost 5 & 1/2 stone. Sadly that seems like a lifetime ago and whilst I have not put it all back on, I have put enough back on to be upsetting me. I need to find whatever it was that triggered my weight loss before and harness it and see what happens this time.


Knitting – Random stuff to test patterns on some lovely variegated wool that I bought at Ally Pally last year as well as some socks. I am on my second pair and I think I am going to dedicate a whole post to them!

Sewing – much as I would love to be as good as those on The Great British Sewing Bee, I know I will not and frankly don’t have the time to take up another hobby. However, I can do some basic stuff on the machine and with the impending Easter HOlidays looming I hope to actually sit down and do it.

The knitting has somewhat been making my hand ache, knitting with five needles probably being the reason, so I have now and again picked up some stitching.

Painting  – Not The Great British Painting Challenge, although I am rather enjoying the programme. But these – they are yet to be fired, but I will share more about them on another post.


Feelingwarm with the sun on my back as I type this. Also a bit down as work is becoming rather trying and I have had to resort to shouting which in turn frightened enough people to have the desired effect.

Pleased  – because from this little post, I have got at least three ideas for future posts!


The Paris Wife – Paula McLain

Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres of books to read. The Paris Wife I admit is not an area of this particular genre that I would have necessarily picked up to read and I was apprehensive as I embarked on this book, because from my own ignorance I knew very little about Ernest Hemingway, let alone his wife.

The Paris Wife is about Hadley Richardson, the first Mrs Hemingway.

It is the 1920s, prohibition in Chicago is in full swing and a twenty-eight year old woman who thought she was destined to spend a life alone finds herself in love with a man full of energy, many layers and with love to give her in return. That man is Ernest Hemingway, the woman Hadley Richardson.

Paula McLain, takes these characters, those they interact with, the events and the places and gives them a voice, she gives them her imagination and tries to make sense of a growing writer and a rather nervous woman who is trying to hold onto her man, as he is tempted into another life.

Moving to Paris, influences Ernest as he interacts with people more of ‘his liking’ and ‘his thinking’. This bohemian way of living so vividly described was the beginning of the end for Hadley and Ernest. How could they ever come back from these influences? Hadley was unable to hold onto her man, and had to live through the embarrassment of his affair seeming right under her nose and in her bed.

The voice McLain gives the most to is of course Hadley, and this book very much reads as if it was Hadley’s memoir reflecting back much later in life, recalling her time with Ernest, with asides in the writing as to what she knows subsequently happens to him.

Many reviews, say there are much better books about this era and these people and maybe there are. However, as someone coming to the book knowing very little as I did then this book is an excellent starting point for further reading about Hemingway and his women.

Read more I certainly have and I felt rather ignorant that all I knew about Hemingway was the title of two books – For Whom The Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms. I had no idea there was more than one wife, I had no idea he was influenced by the likes of Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford, Fitzgerald to name a few. 

I learnt much about his own family,and the trait of suicide which seemed to rather prevalent and also with Hadley’s father as well. It made for very sad reading. 

Of course through this ignorance I have never read any of his work. I’m not sure that I would enjoy it, but certainly from what little I have read about him and his life, I can see why he was a most influential writer and man of literature in the twentieth century. 


The Help – Kathryn Stockett (Book & Film)

I was wondering what else I could blog about, and I realised that some of my very early reviews which can only be found on Amazon have never made it to this blog. Now I am not going to go back and repost ALL of them, but some of them I think certainly need to be on here for posterity and by the fact that I like things in some sort of order, everything can be found in one place then.

One of these books is The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which I read way back in Jan 2010 (this blog was started in August of that year). I recall picking it up on a whim in the bookshop and reading it with great delight, even more so when it became more and more popular and was a must read book. It sometimes gives you a great feeling knowing you have read a book before all the hype.

Of course I learnt of the film version, but never actually got round to seeing it at the cinema. So when at the end of last year, I spotted it being premiered on the BBC, I set the magic box to record and there it sat until I decided one Saturday night recently with not much else on, to watch it.

I am glad I read the book first, as they are inherently better but I was pleasantly surprised by the film, but could see some things which were clearly left out and/or added in. The only problem was the language, I struggled with the book and in the end I decided to imagine reading it out loud, ironically when I heard it spoke on the film I had to resort to subtitles. However, that aside it was a good adaptation of the book and got clearly across the message that the book portrays much more strongly.

Here is my review:

This is the story of three women, Minny and Aibileen and Miss Skeeter. All three women are fighting their own battles and come together to fight one particular battle that of changing opinion in the mid 1960s. However there is a difference between Miss Skeeter and Minny and Aibileen. Miss Skeeter is white and the other two women are Black maids, employed to look after children and keep houses clean and tidy – but these women are not to be trusted and they could quite easily be stealing the silver and they could also be using the same sanitation facilities as the white women that they look after.

Miss Skeeter crosses into their world when she tries to discover what happened to her family maid Constantine, by putting to paper all the stories of the black maids in the area, and how they are really treated by their white employers. However Miss Skeeter has her own problems, her height has been a disability to finding a suitable husband much to her mother’s vexation and without the suitable man on the arm, she finds it difficult to slip back into the life that her friends are all living. Married, husbands, children, weekly bridge meetings, League Meetings (similar to the WI, I imagine) and making sure that everyone follows the correct rules and obeys them to the letter.

Aibileen provides the initial story to Miss Skeeter and to us the reader of the sort of life she has led being a help. The current family The Leefolts have one daughter, Mae Mobley who spends more time with Aibileen then with her mother, who just sees her as a nuisance but a necessity to fit into a particular type of world. Mae Mobley and the subsequent brother which is born during the story rely on Aibileen for everything, and Mae Mobley does not see the difference between colour and does not understand why everyone is set on changing her mind about someone who she obviously treats more as a mother than her own biological one. Children are the innocent ones and can see no wrong in the world; it is the adults which are teaching them their ways be them right and wrong. This comes across very strongly in the book and is definitely the underlying theme throughout. Aibileen gives us an insight into the other maids in the area as she convinces them to tell their stories to Miss Skeeter, putting her own job and livelihood on the line.

Minny is the maid that says too much, think it but do not say it. Minny says it how it is, and despite being kept as a second class citizen this has lost her many jobs. In particular the job she had with Miss Hilly, a friend of Miss Skeeter’s. Her new job with Miss Celia sees another world which these Black Maids are working in. What happened when she left Miss Hilly’s is hinted upon and becomes finally the core of making sure that all the maids who have given their stories despite their names being changed keep their jobs. Do you want the world to know really what your maid did to you?

There is so much to this book that I could go on quite happily and end up telling you exactly what happens. Needless to say this is a book which must be read, it will make you laugh, it will make you cry as you realise that such prejudice existed less than 60 years previously and that some of the so called ‘rules’ actually make no sense whatsoever. You may find difficulty in the reading of the book, as Kathryn Stockett’s uses very colloquial language in Minny and Aibileen’s stories, do not let this put you off, persevere it is so worth it in the end. A must read, in fact an education wrapped up into a wonderful and daring novel. A fantastic debut for Stockett worthy of 5 stars plus.

First reviewed on Amazon January 2010.

Even though I watched the film some five years after the book, I knew there were some differences although I could not quite put my finger on them exactly – a few are mentioned below. (Thanks to googling the differences between the book and the film)

The portrayal of Skeeter in the book is more like a misfit, ‘big and tall’. The film has her much slimmer and of average height, with very little need to beautify.

The film has Skeeter’s mother already ill, in the book we discover she has cancer after having tests done.

In the book, Hilly is described as dark-haired and somewhat plain and stocky, her weight increasing over the course of the year covered by the story. The film portrays Hilly is slender and her appearance does not slip into sloppiness except on the occasion she tries to confront Charlotte over Skeeter’s actions.

So much is glossed up or over for screen adaptations, but I think if you have not read the book or seen the film – start with the book, you will not be disappointed. Correction you may well be disappointed but only with the behaviour of humans.



Luxury – Jessica Ruston

We all want luxury in our lives? But how far would you go to achieve it?

Logan and Nicolo have a dream as young men. The desire for the best and for luxury. They will work to get it.

Maryanne, one young woman in love with Nicolo, but marries Logan.

Now as men the only thing between them is rivalry and revenge. Sworn enemies, we are taken to perfection and then failure. Public and private lives, business and pleasure everything that perfection and failure may touch.

This is a world where money is no object, those that want the best will do anything to get it, to prove to themselves but all their doubters as well.

But whilst money is no object it comes at a cost – life is not luxurious if you do not have anyone to love, anyone to share your dreams with.

This novel is complex as we piece together how exactly Maryanne, Logan and Nicolo’s lives come together and are slowly torn apart throughout the novel, in a very slow-paced way. It was almost if the author was showing us how everything can unravel in front of your eyes with nothing you can do to stop it.

So much is packed into this book, that to try and tell a small part of it would give too much away. Just like the Luxury island that Logan has created, I am going to let it all remain a mystery.

This is not a chick-lit genre novel which focuses on the girl who has nothing to suddenly getting everything and the man as well. This was very much a ‘blockbuster’ novel, the sort I imagine a Jackie Collins to be like. We are dealing with the top end of luxury, the rich, the famous and the infamous. The way drugs and drink seem to infiltrate this almost untouchable class. The media that are playing to suit everyones ends it made me think that perhaps luxury is just too good to be true.

I was transported to this other world and to be honest I think I enjoyed watching it from the sidelines and was rather glad that I was not a part of it. This is exactly what the book does transports you to another world and lets you dream. A guilty pleasure read worth every minute spent on it.

I picked this book up because I had heard Jessica Ruston talk about her most recent novel The Lies you Told Me back in 2013. I have yet to read that book, but I know it is somewhat different from this her debut novel. 

What is your idea of luxury; mine would contain books, chocolate, shortbread and tea and a gloriously comfy bed. 


The A to Z of You and Me – James Hannah

Ivo is in a hospice. He is a young man, he does not belong in this place you would think. Sadly for Ivo he knows this and as he lies in his bed, thinking over the life he has led so far and what trouble there has been and what love he has had and subsequently lost.

We don’t know why Ivo is in a hospice. We know very little about him and there seems to be no or few visitors. He is isolated. He blames people. He does not want to face the guilt of his past. His only contact is with Sheila the nurse with a sense of humour and wanting to give Ivo and everyone a sense of purpose even if they are coming towards the end of their lives.

Sheila uses the A to Z game. Name a body part and tell a story about it relating to your past. Ivo takes up this challenge somewhat reluctantly but anything to stop his mind becoming too anxious. And as you start to think yourself as parts of a body, we learn about Ivo.

As this recollection continues through the book, we start to get a picture of the man who is lying in this bed. How he came to be there? What went on before him? What effect he had on others around him?

This is ultimately a sad book, but there is something rather refreshing about it. It’s style is different as we go through the alphabet piecing together the story. The structure is strong as the story unravels in front of us. At times I felt like I was intruding on something so precious, so beautiful and desperately sad that I did want to cry. At others I felt I was sharing in the ‘gallows’ humour that made me chuckle, as one memory triggered another.

As Ivo finds peace with the emotions and actions that have affected his life? Will the ultimate action mean he can now return to his one yearning – his only true love?

It has such a gentleness about it, that you want to hold onto its memories, you somehow treat the book and the story with some sort of reverence not afforded to other novels. It is not a book to pick up if you want some light reading but that does not make in a turn a difficult read. You need to be in a gentle place to read this and get the most out of it. A debut novel with a difference, it is going to make people talk.

The A-Z of You and Me is published today in hardback. 

Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book for review. 

I am not one for comparing books in genres and topics, etc. However, in the case of this book it reminded me of Rachel Joyce’s recent novel about Queenie Hennessey. I think it was the hospice setting, the coming to the end of your life and it has made me revisit my only experience with that when my grandmother died nearly three years ago. Seeing her in those final days was traumatic and that still remains with me, it has conflicted me. Reading books like these somehow gives me more understanding. 

Books · Crafts · Jottings · Knitting

A knitted square



If you have read my blog in the past you will have noticed spattered amongst the book posts have been some knitting (and other craft) posts.

What could be better than actually a post that combines the two?

Earlier in the year I was sent an email regarding reading a debut novel. The book in question is The A – Z of You and Me by James Hannah.

….tells the story if a young man, Ivo, lying in a hospice bed, his mind full of regrets over a trouble life and a lost love….

It sounded intriguing, I was in but the question also came in – could I knit?


Could I knit a square about 8″ square and send it back to the publishers for a project they are embarking on for the paperback copy of the book.

Well of course, why not, it wouldn’t take me too long and so with thanks to some needles and lovely Women’s Institute Wool (plus instructions) they sent me, a square was duly knitted and sent back:


Knitted Square

But why a knitted square? What can possible be the connection between such a simple item and a debut novel?

Well the only way to find out is to read this debut novel.

The A-Z of You and Me by James Hannah is published on 12 March in hardback. Pop back to this blog on the 12th March and read my review.

And as for the square when I hear anything I will let you know.

(Sorry Ben, I did not put a scarf in there – but I am knitting socks at the moment if that is any good)