The Dark Is Rising Readathon - Preparations Are Afoot!

I posted about this a few weeks back after I signed up, and the 2015 The Dark Is Rising Readathon is nearly upon us.

Regular visitors to the blog will know that these books, by Susan Cooper, helped turn me into a bookworm. I read Under Sea Over Stone under the duvet with a torch provided by my Grandad. I was captivated.

The story, told across five books, details the eternal battle between light and dark, weaving in Arthurian legends, British folklore and mythology in an adventure which is thrilling, thought provoking and powerful.

Ostensibly written for older children and young adults, these books can be enjoyed by everyone. Susan Cooper is an enormously talented writer, and as I have said before, a good story is a good story.

The Readathon kicks off on the 1st December 2015, and I will be taking part and blogging my way through it. I have decided that my childhood copies won’t stand another read, they are far too fragile now, so I am going to read my Folio Society editions which The Delightful Mr F bought me.

There is a nice little community of folks reading together, with a group on Facebook, and a website. Why not register and join in?

The reading order is as follows:

  1. Over Sea, Under Stone
  2. The Dark Is Rising
  3. The Greenwitch
  4. The Grey King
  5. Silver On The Tree

Hope to see you there!

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I am a big fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, with The Remains of the Day stopping me in my literary tracks.

This novel is narrated by Kathy, a “carer” as she reminisces about her time at an English boarding school called Hailsham, and her two best friends, Ruth and Tommy. The school seems idyllic, set in lovely grounds and where the children are encouraged to be artistic and creative. The children accept their life, but there is an underlying purpose to their upbringing. They are clones, created to provide doner organs. This is never explicitly explained to them, although they are aware at some very basic level that once they leave they will become carers, and then eventually doners. Kathy recalls the minutiae of her life and experiences with her friends, and the reader realizes how little the clones know about life in general, as well as their own particular fate. Their confusion at life, once outside the school is touching and alarming in equal measure. They have been prepared for very little of the world.

It is a long way from Stevens the Butler, the main protagonist in The Remains of the Day, in terms of the framework of the plot, but the astute observations and actions of the characters are all there with the lightness of touch I expect from Ishiguro.

Don’t mistake this book for science fiction. It isn’t. The premise simply provides a handy peg off of which to hang the story, a story of love and friendship. A story written in such a subtle way as to gently enter your heart and brain, make you think, make you feel, and make you want to experience life to the full, before it is too late. 

Black Friday - No thanks, I prefer Civilised Saturday!

I really dislike Black Friday. I think it is an ugly display of human greed, and particularly just now, when there are so many more important things in the world. I cringe when I see people brawling over a flat screen TV. That's why I smiled when I saw that the Books Are My Bag Campaign are running a Civilised Saturday event. Participating bookshops are inviting book lovers to visit and browse the shelves whilst having a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake. 

A few of the bookshops taking part are (taken from the Books Are My Bag Press release):

·       Burway Books, Church Stretton:  Mince pies (incl gluten free), mulled wine, art and singing.

·       Southcart Books, Walsall: A "sophisticated soiree" with food and drink and readings from 10 poets.

·       Owl and Pyramid: Owl Christmas decoration craft session for children, story time, tea and cake and canapes for adults.

·       Book-ish, Crickhowell: With the help of the local Glanusk Estate is bringing a touch of Downton Abbey to the high street. A Butler on the door offering prosecco and canapes and a correct posture ‘book walking’ competition.

·       Wenlock Books: Prosecco, free gift-matching service and gift-wrapping service plus a very civilised afternoon tea, with pots of Assam, freshly brewed coffee and a selection of winter-themed cupcakes and some mellow music from one of our favourite local musicians.

·       The Book Centre: Storytelling, Face painting, In Store Treasure hunt, and Author Book Signing.

This all sounds really rather wonderful doesn't it? I'd love to know if any of you manage to make it to an event. Let me know!

Murder in the Mews by Agatha Christie

This is another of Christie's short story collection, so to be honest, I wasn't looking forward to it. In general I find her short stories to be lacking somewhat. These short stories are more of a novella length, and I think this helps. The stories in this collection are:

  • Murder in the Mews
  • The Incredible Theft
  • Dead Man's Mirror
  • Triangle at Rhodes

The first of these, Murder in the Mews is set on Guy Fawkes night, and coincidentally I did read it on the 5th November*. Poirot and Japp are walking together and listening to the fireworks. They conclude that a gunshot would not be noticed amongst all the firecrackers. Lo and behold, a body turns up the next day having been shot the night before. 

The Incredible Theft looks at some missing documents stolen from a room which nobody could have entered. Poirot is marvellous in this. He knows full well what has happened, and sets out to prove it in that knowing way of his. 

Dead Mans' Mirror sees Sir Gervase Chevenix-Gore summon Poirot to his country estate, which Poirot doesn't take well. When he gets there though, the fellow has committed suicide (perhaps). 

In Triangle at Rhodes Poirot is trying to get away from it all with a holiday, although he quickly gets caught up in the murder of a beautiful young woman who is killed using a poisoned cocktail intended for her husband. 

All of the stories are strong, and each shows how Poirot really looks at things in a totally different  light from everyone else, and his alternative view of the world is what makes him a brilliant detective. 

I am going to eat humble pie here, and say, despite my reservations these are great stories and very satisfying. You can read each of them easily in one sitting, and so if a little classic crime is what is needed on your daily commute, then these would suit you perfectly. 

*I'd like to claim I had planned it that way, but frankly I am not that organised.

Now This Is A Birthday Present!

It’s my birthday soon, and what do I generally get for my birthday? Yes, I get books. That is by no means a moan, very, very happy to receive books… What I wasn’t expecting was this….

Yes, The Delightful Mr F bought me a complete set of the Everyman PG Wodehouse books (and a bookcase to put them in). He was aided and abetted by Mr B, of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, who ordered all the volumes. Over the last few months, when we have visited Bath*, I had noticed the pair of them whispering in corners with a shifty looking attitude which I had attributed to some kind of birthday present planning, but I hadn’t expected this!

So, what can I say other than Mr B’s is still the best bookshop in all the world, and most of all the Delightful Mr F is  the most perfect husband in all the world.


*On one occasion I was banished from the shop and ended up getting stuck in one of those giant revolving doors in a department store, along with a dozen or so other poor souls, but that’s another story entirely.