L-space: It has to be...

Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

Long time readers of this blog will remember The Great Book Crisis of 2011, not to mention The Great Books Crisis of 2011 Part 2. Something I didn't report at the time was the loss of a precious book. When we were packing up the book shelves to move house,  I noticed that my first edition copy of Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett was missing. The Delightful Mr F and I hunted high and low for it, but to no avail. It was missing. I know I had a copy, I remember receiving it as a present. I was rather upset at the loss as I have a complete set of Terry Pratchett books and this one in particular had associations with my lovely Dad who is no longer with us. The Delightful Mr F and I concluded that it had accidentally been sent to the charity shop during a book cull*.

Fast forward four years, and a few weeks, and you will see me stood in front of my Terry Pratchett collection, thinking about the imminent publication of A Shepherd's Crown in a few weeks time. And what does my eye rest upon? My copy of Lords and Ladies. In perfect condition, innocently sat there on the shelf in the correct chronological place amongst all of Sir Terry's other work. The Delightful Mr F comes rushing upstairs at my call to verify my find. We are both confused, but elated at the return of my book. 

We have both mulled over this little mystery, and The Delightful Mr F has concluded, and I agree with him, that this is definite proof of L-Space.  For those not in the know, L-Space is the theory that books warp space and time on the Discworld. It allows travel, via libraries and book shops to other dimensions and times. I wonder where my book went? Perhaps it was on a tour of the great libraries of the world. The Royal Library of Alexandria in the 3rd Century BC perhaps? Or  the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the New York Public Library, or even Hogwarts. Maybe it ended up in the library at the Unseen University.  Wherever it was, I am glad it is back. 

Have any of your books disappeared without trace only to return as if they had never been gone?

*If that is a lesson not to purge books, then I don't know what is. 

Reader's Reads #12: Millie from Planet Millie

Of late I have become an obsessive listener to Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4. Clever, famous (not necessarily the same thing) and interesting people are interviewed and asked to choose eight records they would like to have with them on a desert island. I wanted to get to know some of my readers a little better, so thought it would be fun to feature readers and their favourite reads. This spawned the rather natty, although probably not originally named "Reader's Reads".

If you would like to be featured, please contact me via the email button (bottom left of the main page) and I'll email out the bits and pieces to you. 

Each reader has a comfy seat, anywhere in the world, real or imaginary, a beverage and snack of their choice and a bookcase which will only hold eight books. 

Today we have Mille from the wonderful blog, Planet Millie. If you haven't been over to Millie's part of the blogosphere I would urge you to do so, it is a genuinely lovely place to be, full of wonderful nature and wildlife posts, along with crafts and books and all manner of happy things. Millie also lives with the world's most expressive cat. Over to you Millie!

It has taken me MONTHS to write this post, as choosing answers to the questions below is very important!  It's also taken a while for me to decide what reading space to photograph, but I've finally decided to just admit that I do most my reading on the bed in the spare room.  My cat has a fleece blanket on there so she can sit next to me while I read.  I would love to have a reading nook, but I think unless my reading nook was an actual bed I probably wouldn’t use it that much...

Beverage of choice: Tea, of course!

Snack of choice: Nope! I don't snack while reading.

Location of comfy chair and bookshelf: My books currently live on shelving in a set of cupboards, so I don't actually see them on a daily basis as they're behind wooden doors. How sad! Other than that, I have one small shelf above my bed for special books I love, and then I have my Kindle (which has books arranged by genre).

The one which kick started your reading habit:

Hehe, the first book I ever read by myself was the Look! Look! Look! book, which basically only had the word “look" in it. Every page had an illustration and someone saying "Look!" (The best page was a house on fire with a fireman!).  After I'd learnt to read, I was unstoppable!

The one which changed your view of the world:

Wow, this is a hard question. I read a lot of non-fiction, and some of them can be very thought-provoking.  However, I’d like to change this question slightly if I can, as I have one book that changed the path of my life, which I guess probably changed my world view too.  That book is A short history of nearly everything, by Bill Bryson.  Before reading that book as a 17 year old, I was going to be a dentist.  Then I read this Bill Bryson book for a science book report, and decided to study geology instead.  Bill Bryson was the chancellor of the university I graduated from, so on graduation day I got to shake his hand and tell him it was his fault I was there!

The one you go back to again and again:

The Assassin’s Cloak by Irene & Alan Taylor.  This book is an anthology of the best diarists in history and it is totally awesome.  I love reading diaries and this book is great for dipping into.


The one you comfort read:

North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell.  I love this book.  I don’t read much fiction nowadays, but this is one fiction novel I can always appreciate.  I also love the BBC series as it’s a great adaptation.

The one which you had an unexpected response to:

Wuthering Heights.  It was a negative unexpected response, because this book is a big pile of rubbish and I don’t understand why everyone loves it!  I do not get the love for it AT ALL.

The one you wish you had time to read:

I don’t have one book for this answer, because there are currently over 200 books on my to-read list and I want to read them all!  I wish I was the sort of person that could read War and Peace and be smug about it, but I’ve started it three times and I just cannot be bothered with all the characters.

The one with sentimental value:

Well, I’m 28 years old and I’m a girl, so the answer is the first Harry Potter!  He started Hogwarts the same year I started secondary school, and I distinctly remember the day my Mother gave me the book and made me start reading it.  She’d read about how it was going to be the next big thing in children’s literature and said I ought to read it.  I was grumpy because she hadn’t let me choose my own book (I was 11…), but from the first page I was hooked.  During the later years of Harry Potter I worked at a book shop so I worked the midnight releases (by choice, I might add!).

The last one you read:

I usually have quite a few books on the go at once.  The last one I finished was Wildwood by Roger Deakin, which is a non-fiction book about woodland.

I hope you enjoyed this, and thank you for having me Helen!

Thanks Millie! I totally agree about Wuthering Heights....

#100daysofwellbeing: Days 92 - 98

Blogging while the rain pours down outside

Blogging while the rain pours down outside

Well, who would have thought it? Here I am with only two days to go until my 100 days project is complete. I'll write a little post with reflections on how it went next week, but for now here are this week's photos. It was one of those weeks, where I ended up with lots of niggly things to do, like clean the washing machine. On the plus side, The Delightful Mr F and I went to Foyles in London on Saturday and spent two hours wandering around. A purchase or two was also made! More on that in a later post. 


Tree Bark

Tree Bark



Snoopy (courtesy of Moleskine)

Snoopy (courtesy of Moleskine)

David Walliams talking book

David Walliams talking book





Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens

Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens

Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens

This is the second in the Wells and Wong mysteries, the first being Murder Most Unladylike and the third, First Class Murder is out at the end of the month.

The series features Daisy and Hazel, members of their own detective society, and fresh from solving the murder of one of their school mistresses. They are both ad Daisy's home, Fallingford for the holiday, and to celebrate her birthday with a traditional english tea party.  We meet Daisy's family, her mother and father, and her dashing yet myserteous uncle Felix. There are tensions in the house over an outsider, who seems to be up to no good, right up until someone poisons him. 

This is classic English murder mystery territory. A manor house, a cast of eccentric characters, a corpse and a violent storm which traps them all there together. 

The plot is carefully put together, and I was truly surprised when the murderer was revealed. It was a great twist, and had a real ring of truth behind it.  

I love Hazel and Daisy, they are firm friends, but very different, Daisy impulsive and headstrong with Hazel being the more measured of the two. Their friendship feels very real, they squabble and fight and make up again, just as kids do. They are a charming pair, and I can't wait to read their next adventure. 

A Prefect's Uncle by PG Wodehouse

Well, What Ho! I have neglected my Wodehouse reading challenge in a way in which would cause Jeeves to have a sharp intake of breath.  I am truly ashamed to say this only book two. Nevertheless the old momentum is back, and I shall do my best to rattle through a few more.

There is a lot of cricket in this book, and I will admit that I don’t know the first thing about cricket, although any game which stops for tea must be extremely civilized.

The story unfolds at Beckworth College, a minor public school for boys. Gethryn, a school prefect and a hero on the cricket pitch discovers that his uncle, a younger boy is starting at the school. His uncle proceeds to cause havoc, with a particular impact on the cricket, which does not go down well.

As with all Wodehouse, the prose is full of wonderful language and there are some truly funny one liners, so whether you are a cricket expert or not, this will raise a chuckle or two. 

40 Books for 40 Years... Part 1

I am not quite sure how this happened, but it appears that I will be forty this year. I am quite stunned when I think about it, where on earth did all that time go? Much of it was spent reading, no doubt about that. I thought it would be fun to make a list of the 40 books which have had an impact on me over the last 40 years. So, this is the first part in an ad hoc series leading up to the big day. Some of these books I still own, and some I don’t, but wish I did.

1.     The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton: This is one of the first books I recall reading on my own. I had one of those lovely hardback copies, and I remember loving the idea of another world outside of our own.

2.     The Malory Towers Series by Enid Blyton: I didn’t read any other of Blyton’s school stories, but these six books I adored and re-read them, over and over again.

3.     Heidi by Johanna Spyri – When I was around 8 or 9 there were a series of classics issued in red fake leather hardback by Purnell Books. I have a few of them, but my favourite by far was Heidi. At the time, a TV series was also being transmitted, and I watched the programme as I read the book.

4.     I Don’t Care Said Pierre by Maurice Sendak – The first village I lived in growing up had a lovely library, with a curved bookcase. I would regularly borrow this book about Peirre who was a horrible little boy. Every time an adult warned him of the consequences of his actions, he would say he didn’t care. Sadly he should have heeded his parent’s warnings when he tried to make friends with a lion at the zoo. It didn’t end well for Pierre. The lion looked happy though.

5.     The Reader’s Digest Nature Books – I loved these books. They have beautiful pictures inside of native British birds, butterflies, insects, animals and trees. I was missing the tree volume until very recently when I stumbled across it in an antiques shop in Wales.  

6.     Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl – These warped versions of classic fairy tales, told in rhyme are wonderfully observed. My Dad loved them too and I used to read them out loud to him. Our favourite was Snow White and Seven Dwarves. Having pinched the magic mirror, they use it to bet on the horses.

7.     The unmanned reading course book with the tale of Grand Duchess Anastasia in it: At junior school we learned to read using a series of books which were grouped together by colour based on reading progression. I can remember reading to the end of the course pretty early. The final book had the story of Anastasia in it. It was the first time that I read something which had an unresolved ending. I thought about that story and the fate of Anastasia for years afterwards. Subsequently the rumours of her escape were proved unfounded.

8.     The Junior Encyclopaedia of Science - I had a series of these encyclopaedias. There was one for geography, science, space and so on. They were just the right size for me to hold and were full of fantastic photographs and diagrams. It was these books which provided me with my first understanding of scientific principles.

9.     Paddington by Michael Bond – I had a lovely copy of this, with stills from the BBC animated series. I was particularly fond of the story where Paddington wallpapers himself into the living room by papering over the door.

10.  Knock and Wait by Gwen Grant – At junior school we had a book club. Once a term a catalogue would come out, and if Mum permitted we could choose some books. Then we had, what seemed to us, an eternal wait until the books arrived several weeks later. The three books by Gwen Grant were read and re-read. They are out of print now, but you can find them. They follow an unnamed narrator as she writes down her life in Nottinghamshire with her vast number of brothers and sisters. Knock and Wait is the second book where our heroine is sent away to convalesce after an illness. She causes havoc for the nurses and teachers. It’s funny and touching.

So, there we go, the first ten books which reflect my early reading. Which books do you remember from your early reading years?


Reader's Reads #11: Richard Wood

Of late I have become an obsessive listener to Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4. Clever, famous (not necessarily the same thing) and interesting people are interviewed and asked to choose eight records they would like to have with them on a desert island. I wanted to get to know some of my readers a little better, so thought it would be fun to feature readers and their favourite reads. This spawned the rather natty, although probably not originally named "Reader's Reads".

If you would like to be featured, please contact me via the email button (bottom left of the main page) and I'll email out the bits and pieces to you. 

Each reader has a comfy seat, anywhere in the world, real or imaginary, a beverage and snack of their choice and a bookcase which will only hold eight books. 

Today's reader is the Richard Wood, former colleague and long term pal. Richard's photo fits in with the whole desert island theme, don't you think?

- The one which kickstarted your reading habit

I struggled with this as I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read, so I asked my big sister.  She tells me that it’s The Wind in the Willows. My Uncle gave me a hardback version with the illustrations by E.H.Shepard one Christmas  when I was about seven. I read and re-read this book all through my childhood and it’s left me with a love of messing about in boats and a lingering fear of weasels.

- The one which changed your view of the world: Bury my Heart at Wounded knee by Dee Brown

This book is a history of the white man’s dealings with the native Americans. Works its way through all the tribes and outlines the treachery and arrogance that the Native Americans suffered at the hands of the “civilised” world.  By the end of the book most of the tribes had been effectively wiped out and those that were still alive had their lifestyle destroyed because it wasn’t convenient to the white man.  I read this when I was at university and was probably the first time that I realised that my civilisation had some very negative effects on some peoples and perhaps our influence on the world isn’t all good.  The next book I read was “A distant Mirror” by Barbara W. Tuchman, another sizable tome which is history of 14th century France. A century where the population of France dropped by nearly two thirds.  I don’t advise this because one of those books is a bit depressing, reading both one after the other made me listen to the Smiths and wonder if it was all worthwhile.

- The one you go back to again and again - Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

I didn’t really get this book until the second or third time that I read it.  I think that there’s a first 30 page problem in which, when you first start reading, you’ve got no idea what’s going on and are inclined to think that it gibberish.  Please keep going, you get there eventually.  Set in the 2nd world war in an American bomber squadron, the plot cuts backwards and forwards through time making references to incidents that you only understand much later in the book.  But the thing that brings me back again and again is the crazy logic that infuses the whole story. Catch 22 (and I don’t think this is ruining the story for anyone who hasn’t read the book) is that if you are mad then you are not allowed to fight, but if you ask to stop fighting on the basis that you are mad then you are clearly not mad as only a mad man would want to fight, and as the authorities want you to fight they won’t notice if you are behaving as if you are mad. The whole book continues in this vein.  I think it’s a total classic and I hope I haven’t put anyone off.

- The one you comfort read: Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

I came to this book with some trepidation as my parents both love Jane Austen, so it was hallowed turf.  I enjoyed it the first time round – it’s full of sparkling wit and wonderful characters.  I’ll admit that what has deepened the love was living in France before internet television and only having a few tapes, one of which was the BBC Colin Firth/ Jennifer Ehle version, which we watched many times. As it was so close to the original text, reading it is like settling down with an old, much loved friend. You know what they are going to say, but you enjoy it anyway. We have many family jokes based on quotes from P&P. I do have a thing about  Jennifer Ehle too, so my Jane looks just like her – I leave Colin Firth to the wife.

- The one which you had an unexpected response to: If this were a man by Primo Levi

I could have put almost anything by Primo Levi here.  He was an Italian Jewish Chemist who spent some of the 2nd world war fighting for the Italian partisans before being captured and transported to Auschwitz with 650 Italian Jews, he was one of 20 who survived.  He worked in IG Farben’s Buna Werke laboratory producing synthetic rubber so avoided hard labour outside. Then caught scarlet fever and was put in the camp hospital just before the SS cleared the camp before it was liberated by the Red Army, so he avoided the death march that killed so many of the other inhabitants.  The book is grim, it deals with an almost un-imaginable subject, but what I didn’t expect is the humanity of Primo Levi himself, it wasn’t that he forgave the Germans (he didn’t - he later denied this suggestion) but I felt that he seemed to be searching for understanding.  In other books he tries to understand why people would act like they did – what would make a Jew do the German’s dirty work for them? He makes no judgements but presents the evidence and asks the questions.

- The one you wish you had time to read

 I commute by train – all the time in the world!!

Perhaps I’ll try something chunky and intellectual and impress my fellow commuters – The Illiad by Homer or The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx (or maybe I’ll just read cheap thrillers)…

- The one with sentimental value: Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

This was one of my mother’s favourite books, a novel by Dickens, so it’s got the Thames, fog, characters with incredible names (Niccodemus Boffin, Lizzie Hexam, Silas Wegg, Bradley Headstone etc.), corpses, plot twists & turns and Dickens’s wonderful language.  But most of all, for me, as my mother lent it to me, then we talked about it, it represents the start of a great pleasure I picked up from my mother of reading a book, giving it to someone else, then talking about it.  I’m always amazed by how differently two people can see the same text, and what different things they take from it and get great satisfaction when someone else gets pleasure from something that pleased me.

- The last one you read: East of the Mountains by David Guterson

This is a beautiful, bitter sweet book. It is written from the perspective of a retired doctor who has recently discovered that he has colon cancer.  He carries the mental scars from fighting in the war and the recent death of his wife. He decides to go on one last hunting trip with his two dogs across the mountains of Washington State to the orchard areas where he was born and grew up.  It is clear that he intends to have “an accident” during the trip and shoot himself with his father’s shotgun.

The book has wistful quality, he remembers incidents during his childhood and the war, one of which leads him to decide to become a doctor. But it also evokes his love of the country and I felt transported into the landscape and felt that I had spent time there with the doctor.  There’s a continual contrast between images of life and death throughout this beautiful book.  I’ve read “Snow Falling on Cedars” which I also loved and I will slowly work my way through his other novels – not too fast as I don’t want to use them up too quickly. You mustn’t waste a good author!!

My beverage of choice is: A cup of tea (of course)

My snack of choice is: A muffin with butter and marmite (or a hot cross bun)

My comfy chair is located:  By a log fire somewhere on holiday

Thanks Richard!

Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume

Spill Simmer Falter Wither - Sara Baume

Spill Simmer Falter Wither - Sara Baume

This book, with its rather non-descript cover was sat patiently on the counter at Mr B’s. Having staggered up there with a large pile of books for purchase, they mentioned that Spill Simmer Falter Wither was getting rave reviews in Ireland where it had won various awards. Having already accumulated a significant number of purchases, I figured one more couldn’t hurt, so it came home with me.

It deserves the rave reviews, every single one, and more.  The story follows Ray, a man in his fifties, a loner as he adopts a dog from a dog’s home which he names One-Eye as the dog lost one of his eyes in a badger baiting accident. From the off, it is clear that Ray is not integrated into his community, by his own admission he is strange.  He bonds with One-Eye immediately. One-Eye is aggressive due to his former badger baiting background, and needs to be kept away from other people. The pair take their daily walks at times when others won’t be around, and when One-Eye attacks another dog, and the dog warden comes to take him away, Ray and One-Eye do a midnight flit and head out into rural island to live alone in Ray’s car.

The writing is beautiful, subtle and clever. The descriptions of the landscapes are particularly  memorable, and Ray’s inner thoughts about the world he sees are acutely observed.  The plot flows from one season to the next, and as time goes on there is a growing unease as to why Ray is “strange”. It is all extremely ambiguous and I swung from enormous sympathy for him to a terrible fear about what he may or may not have done in his past.  The ending thankfully resolves this, if it had been unclear at the end I would have felt very uncomfortable indeed.

This book has earned a place on the library shelves at Fennell Towers and won’t be moving on to another reader. I has left an imprint on me which will stay for a very long time, and brought home to me that you can never be sure what in someone’s past has made them the way they are.