Thursday, 30 April 2009

Booking Through Thursday


It's Thursday again! Here's this weeks BTT:

Which is worse?

Finding a book you love and then hating everything else you try by that author, or

Reading a completely disappointing book by an author that you love?

Oooh I had to really think about this one and I think that finding a book that you love and then hating everything else by that author is worse. I LOVED The Secret History by Donna Tart, I re-read it so many times and recommended it to loads of people so I was beyond excited when she published another book called The Little Friend. I really hated it, I didn't even finish it and I just remember feeling so disappointed, it was as though it was written by a completely different author.

I think you are very lucky if you can find an author that you love and they have written many books. I love Daphne Du Maurier and have always enjoyed anything that she has written but I was a little bit disappointed with her book Jamaica Inn. I knew though that there were other books by her that I would be able to try and I have not been disappointed for a long time!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith


Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith is one of the books that I have been meaning to catch up on as I missed it last year. There has been a lot of hype about this book and there was much controversy when it was added to The Man Booker Prize long listing. In some ways I think this put me off a bit but I am so glad that I finally took the time to find out for myself as it is a brilliant book. I shall give you the blurb as the story is quite a complex one so I may not explain it properly:

THE SOVIET UNION, 1953

Stalin's grip is at it's tightest, enforced by the Ministry of State Security- a secret police force whose brutality is no secret at all. Under its regime, people are commanded to believe that crime simply does not exist.
But when the body of a young boy is discovered on train tracks in Moscow, Officer Leo Demidov- a war hero, utterly dedicated to the Ministry- is surprised to hear that the boy's family is convinced it was murder. Leo's superiors order him to ignore this and he is obliged to obey. But something in him knows there is more.
Sensing his doubts, the Ministry threatens Leo, giving him no choice but to turn his back on his once-beloved Party. Disgraced, exiled with his wife Raisa to a town deep in the Ural Mountains, Leo realises that the crime he helped cover up in the capital has happened here too.
The murder of another child.
Risking everything, Leo and Raisa will pursue a horrifying killer- even if doing so makes them enemies of the State...


I knew hardly anything about Stalinist Russia so I was worried that I wouldn't understand, luckily though Mr S did a history degree before deciding to become a doctor so he was able to give me a brief over-view. This book is one of the most gripping that I have read recently, you are instantly transported to the oppressive and desperate state that Russia was in when under Stalin's rule. Lies, secrecy, corruption, double standards and cruelty have infiltrated all parts of society. No-one can be trusted, even those that you love. I think this is what really made me think the most; it must have been horrendous to live under such conditions, constantly watching your back and having your behaviour scrutinised by those all around you.
The character of Leo Demidov is not a simple one, my opinion changed on him throughout the book but that is partly what keeps you reading. Tom Rob Smith keeps the story going at an extremely fast pace and this helps you to identify more with the characters, they had to act quickly and make snap decisions as there would nearly always be someone just behind them.
At the centre of Child 44 is a tale of survival; survival of morals and justice but also survival of thousands of people whose own country turned against them.
In many ways Child 44 is not a nice book to read; there are scenes of torture and brutality but they have not been included merely to shock, they are part of the integral fabric of the story, the author has to show you the lengths that the State will go to in order for people to obey their regime. This is an excellent book and one that I would highly recommend, if you would like to know more about Tom Rob Smith and his new book The Secret Speech which continues Leo's story then visit Simon's blog at Savidge Reads as he did an excellent interview with the author himself.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Who would you invite to dinner?



Thought that I would do a little meme today to warm those brain cells up!

1. If you could host a dinner party with 5 literary characters, who would they be and why?
  • Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice- I would want to know what Mr Darcy is really like and I think that she would be quite opinionated on most things!
  • Precious Ramotswe from The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency- I love her character and she would hopefully bring us all some Bush tea.
  • Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre- I would be quite happy just to sit and watch him brooding all night!
  • Bridget Jones- I know this is probably a bit predictable but I think we would get on very, very well!
  • Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind- I think that she would be a very entertaining dinner guest, plus I could ask her to tell me the story and then I wouldn't feel so bad about not finishing the book!
2. Who is your literary role model?
Hmmmm I don't think that I really have just one role model from literature. I think that you like and dislike different aspects of all the characters that you come across, there is not one person that I would like to emulate.

3. Which literary house would you most like to live in?
This would definitely be Manderley for me from Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca. It sounds like a beautiful house surrounded by land leading to it's own private beach yet it is steeped in mystery and secrets; it would definitely be one to go snooping around in.


4. Which literary couple would you most like for parents?
Mr and Mrs Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, I'm sure that I would soon get fed up with the neurotic mother but I think that Mr Bennet is just lovely, he wants his daughters to marry well but more importantly he wants them to marry for love.
5. Pick 3 literary characters that you would like to have as siblings?
I would pick Tony, Sean and Ned from Lisa Jewell's A Friend of the Family. I am blessed with a lovely sister but I have always wondered what it would be like to have a brother; this way I would have 3 very different ones!
6. Who is your favourite literary villain?
I would have to say Mrs Danvers from Rebecca, she is such a good villain. I just love how sinister she is, that scene where she nearly gets the new Mrs De Winter to jump from the window shows the sheer power that she has. I have also seen the Hitchcock film of this book and Mrs Danvers is brilliant in it; the way she just appears silently and appears to glide across the room as though she is inhuman!

7. Name a character that most people dislike but you do not. Why do you like them?
Snape from the Harry Potter books, I think I might have a thing about dark, brooding villains, especially when they turn out to the good guy in the end.

8. If you could go into a novel, which one would it be and why?
Oooh this is a very Lost in Austen question! There are so many that I would want to be in, Pride and Prejudice so that I could meet Mr Darcy (I do have a bit of an obsession!) and give Lydia a slap for being so annoying! Rebecca so that I could meet Maxim De Winter and wonder around Manderley. There are so many more that I could mention, that is the thing about books though, you get to imagine standing in the character's shoes and seeing life through their eyes.

After completing this meme I have discovered that I may be slightly obsessed with Rebecca and Pride and Prejudice, I promise that I have read and loved other books too!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows


I have had such a successful reading week and weekend! As you can see below I loved The Book Thief and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society definitely did not disappoint either. Both books are dealing with the second world war but in wonderfully different ways and from very different but equally important view points.
Juliet Aston is the central character, she is an author and it is now 1946 and she is stuck for something to write. She receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey who came across an old book of hers and decided to write to her to see if she would be able to aid him in acquiring some new books on Charles Lamb, who he greatly admires. They begin corresponding about their love of books and Juliet comes to learn that Dawsey is a member of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and she, like most people would be, is intrigued. Dawsey explains how it all started with an illegal roast pork dinner and now the society has many members who get together and discuss what they have read. Juliet begins corresponding with other members of the society and friendships are quickly formed. Inevitably she travels to Guernsey to meet her new friends, I don't wish to give to much away as there may be the odd person like me out there who still hasn't got round to reading this.
The book is written solely as a series of letter between all of the characters but they form the story beautifully; I read this book in just over a day as I could not put it down. The story really is about friendship and the lengths and sacrifices we are willing to make for those that we care about. I loved the characters in the book and felt like they were old friends by the end of it. I would highly recommend this book and I know that it will always be on my book shelf to be enjoyed again in the future.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


Wow! I cannot believe that it took me so long to finally get round to reading this book, it is one of the best that I have ever read and certainly the best book that I have ever read about the Holocaust. The book is set in 1939, Liesel's parents have been sent away to a concentration camp and she goes to live with her new foster family, the Hubermanns. Liesel is a thief, she steals books; the power of words and their consequences are central to Zusak's tale. The narrator of the book is Death and he holds nothing back. Death is there to show humanity in all it's glory, there are tales of courage and good but the tales of sheer evil and shame are given just as much space.
I am not going to write a long review of this book as I really don't feel that I can do it justice. There are just so many elements to this book; Zusak manages to show the awfully oppressive conditions that people lived in but the message that shines through is one of hope. People had to believe in themselves to survive and more importantly they had to believe in others. There were a few times when I had to put this book down as it literally made me cry; I really do feel like it is one of those books that everyone should read. Markus Zusak has taken probably the most tragic event in history and managed to write a book that is both beautiful and brutal.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

My Current TBR Pile


I had a little sort out last night of my TBR pile; these are the books that are on my immediate list to be read. Also not pictured are The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which I am waiting for Mr S to finish and also State of Happiness by Stella Duffy which I have just swapped with someone so at the moment it is in the hands of Royal Mail. The others waiting around on the book shelf are:

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini- I loved The Kite Runner so I am really looking forward to this.
  • If My Father Loved Me by Rosie Thomas- A friend gave me this and I have had it for ages but with everything that has happened recently, reading a book about father-daughter relationships was not at the top of my list!
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens- I bought this in my quest to finally give Dickens a go but I have not got round to reading it yet. I shall have to make my appointment with Miss Havisham soon.
  • Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier- My lovely sister bought me this for Christmas! I loved Girl with a Pearl Earring so I am hoping that this will be just as good.
  • Random Acts of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann- I wanted this book for ages and then since I bought it I just have not felt in the mood to read it, something keeps putting me off and I'm not sure what it is!
  • The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith- this was another swap as I was interested to see what his other series of books was like.
  • How to be Good by Nick Hornby- I have not ready anything by this author so picked this up a few weeks ago to see what I am missing out on.
  • Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith- again my lovely sister bought me this, I love the front cover! I have a few more to catch up on in the ladies detective agency series before I can read this one but I am very much looking forward to it!
So if you have read any of these or heard good/bad things about them then let me know!

Monday, 20 April 2009

You can never have too much icing!


I am a very lucky lady indeed! My beautiful Sister and her lovely Husband came to visit us in the Shire for the weekend. It was my sister's birthday on Friday and she bought her own cakes with her! Before you think I was being stingy, I should explain that they own and run their own cupcake company, Cupcakes and Peonies and therefore are much better at baking then I will ever be!
So we put the balloons and banners up, poured the Pimms and chilled the Champagne and had ourselves a little party. I had requested extra frosting on my cupcakes and managed to eat two before giving in and saving my other one for the next day! It is very useful though having a master cupcake maker as a sister, although we can often be found searching the Internet for new sparkly sprinkles rather than doing any real work!!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt


This is the first book that I have read by Victoria Holt, that is the pseudonym for Eleanor Alice Burford who has written many books in different styles and under different names.
Mistress of Mellyn is very much a romantic suspense novel. The reader follows Martha Leigh as she takes up the position of governess at Mount Mellyn House in Cornwall. The house itself is central to the story; it is a spooky, cliff-top mansion hiding many secrets within it's walls. Connan TreMellyn is the master of the house who has recently lost his wife and so he has employed Martha Leigh to take charge of his young daughter, Alvean. Martha feels the presence of the previous mistress of Mount Mellyn immediately and sets out to uncover some of the secrets surrounding her untimely death.
This book has many aspects which are similar to some of the classics. Connan TreMellyn has many similarities to Mr Rochester of Jane Eyre and there are comparisons with Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca with the mysterious death of the first wife and the mysterious house on the Cornish coast. Some of these similarities annoyed me slightly but I still enjoyed it and I have to say that I really had not predicted the twist at the end.
I am just about to start The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It is my intention to catch up with some of the books that I missed from last year. Next on the list is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Mr S is reading this at the moment so I am going to borrow it when he has finished. It is the fastest that I have ever witnessed him read a book so it must be good!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Spend, Spend, Spend!


Booking Through Thursday time again:

Yesterday, April 15th, was Tax Day in the U.S., which means lots of lucky people will get refunds of over-paid taxes.

Whether you’re one of them or not, what would you spend an unexpected windfall on? Say … $50? How about $500?

(And, this is a reading meme, so by rights the answer should be book-related, but hey, feel free to go wild and splurge on anything you like.)

Oh dear mine probably are very predictably book related! If it was $5o then I would most likely buy some books on my wish list which seems to get bigger everyday! If it was $500 then I would fulfill my dream of turning one of our sitting rooms into a library. The front sitting room of our house has a big bay window and a wood-burning fire place and it is the room we like to sit in and read. There is a really large wall at the back of the room which I would love to put shelves up and fill that wall with books! Neither myself or my partner are that brilliant at DIY so I would use the $500 to pay a carpenter to make us some fitted shelves and there would probably be some money left over for a new book or two!




Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Blimey!


I was woken from my slumber in the wee hours of this morning by a very large rumbling noise! Mr S and I huddled together under the safety of the duvet as the biggest thunderstorm I have ever experienced took place around our house. I used to really like a good storm but I have to admit that I was petrified last night- it felt like we were right in the middle of it and it was so loud. I had trouble getting back to sleep after that so I am a little tired today! Had a productive evening though as finally started writing the book which has been in my head for several months. I have done lots of planning and research and it was quite scary to be sat in front of a blank page but I loved it! It was so exciting to see my ideas coming together and I got to 1,017 words so not too bad!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Parasites by Daphne Du Maurier


I have Simon over at Savidge Reads to thank for reminding me that this book was sitting on my shelf. Daphne Du Maurier is at the top of the list of my favourite authors, Rebecca is definitely my favourite book of all time. I always get a bit nervous when I start another one of her books as I worry that I will be disappointed in it but Du Maurier, yet again, did not disappoint.
The Parasites is about the Delaney siblings, Maria, Niall and Celia. They are the off-spring of very famous parents; their father was one of the greatest singers of the time and their mother was an extremely talented and applauded dancer. Celia is the only child that shares both parents, so she is half sister to Niall and Maria, who share no blood ties, yet they have the closest bond of all the children. These three complex characters are actually the parasites in the title as they are seen to live off the talent of their parents as they try to forge their own creative careers. Du Maurier shows them in the present day she then creates a series of flashback to show how they have become they people they are now.
This book could be slightly auto-biographical; Daphne was the daughter of Sir Gerald Du Maurier, a famous actor and manager and her mother was the actress Muriel Beaumont. Perhaps there are elements of Du Maurier in the character of Celia whose true talent is writing and illustrating stories yet she suppresses this in order to take care of her ailing father. Du Maurier did have a tempestuous relationship with her father and he greatly influenced her. She worked extremely hard to gain the success that she did; maybe Celia is the person she could have been if she had not had the will to explore and use her talent for writing.
I really enjoyed this book but many parts of it are not pleasant; Du Maurier is so good at creating characters that can truly make you cringe. Niall and Maria are especially detestable, selfish creatures. However, Du Maurier has woven the story so well that you do have sympathy for them as they are very much a product of their childhood. Du Maurier really captured for me the feeling you have when you suddenly realise that you are a grown-up:

A day would come, a day like any other day, and looking over your shoulder you would see the shadow of the child that was, receding; and there would be no going back, no possibility of recapturing the shadow.


I really enjoyed this book, the relationships between the characters keeps you gripped, especially the one between Niall and Maria. Du Maurier has an extremely clever and subtle style of writing, she does not bombard you with information, instead she weaves the little details throughout her story so that you gradually get to know the characters. There is always an air of mystery that keeps you turning the pages.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Bits and Bobs!

This is not an entirely book related post and for that I apologise! I would like to say that I am really enjoying The Parasites by Daphne Du Maurier though. She is my favourite author and I have been meaning to read this for some time, I will let you know more once I have finished!
Mr S and I are pretty busy at the moment, only 3 and a bit months until our wedding! We are far more organised than we were but there is still a way to go! I have my dress sorted and am taking my bridesmaid's to get theirs on Saturday so that should be fun! We are leaving the Shire for the Easter weekend so we can spend some time with Mr S' family and some visiting relatives so I am really looking forward to that, will hopefully get some time to fit a bit of reading and writing in also!
I did want to say that I went to see The Boat that Rocked at the weekend and I loved it! It really cheered me up! There is a great cast involved; Billy Nighy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kenneth Brannagh, Rhys Ifans, Emma Thompson and many, many more! I loved the music and I think it is probably now my favourite Richard Curtis film.

I felt very liberated at the end of last week as I closed my facebook account and went cold turkey! There were just too many relatives crawling out the wood-work and causing trouble so I decided to leave. However, I have become very swiftly addicted to Twitter! I really didn't get it at first but now it has replaced Facebook in my affections! If you are as addicted to Twitter as me then please feel free to follow me, my user name is Dot_Scribbles

Sunday, 5 April 2009

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb


I kept on coming across this book on different blogs and book sites and each review was glowing so I thought I would give it a go. This is Wally Lamb's first book; it began life as a short story and it was Lamb's mentor who encouraged him to develop it into a full-blown novel.
It is very much a coming-of-age tale, the central protagonist is Dolores Price; the reader follows her from childhood memories through to being a grown woman in her forties. I think she is possibly one of the most complex characters that I have ever come across. In some chapters she completely repulsed me and made me want to put the book down , in others I just felt sheer compassion and recognition.
Life has not been kind to Dolores, it begins with her parent's divorce and generally goes down-hill from there. The events and unhappiness in her life lead her to overeat until she is clinically obese; this then informs her behaviour in the future and the choices she makes. Wally Lamb packs a lot into this book; his description of Dolores' development from a small child, through puberty and on to adulthood is brilliant on its own. He misses nothing out; the physical changes that women go through plus the many changes and attitude are all there.
It is hard to review this book without giving anything away and I don't want to spoil it for anyone wishing to read it themselves. There are many different events in this book and once I had got used to the character of Dolores, I was completely hooked and couldn't put the book down,
Through his central character, Wally Lamb really does explore how our childhood experiences affect us and can alter the path that the rest of our life takes. The relationship between Dolores and her mother is central to the book and I think that is what will really stay with me. As a young child Dolores makes many assertions about her mother which feed the utterly destructive relationship that the two share. It takes many years for Dolores to reassess her perceptions of her mother and reach some kind of real truth and peace. How many people do we do this with in our own lives?
This book made me both laugh and cry. It is not necessarily a 'nice' book to read but I found it an extremely worthwhile experience. Dolores Price is a beautifully created character; she will stay with me for a long time.

Thank You!

I would like to say a big thank you to Blodeuedd for giving me the Premio Dardos Award:



This award is for bloggers who distinguish themselves for showing cultural values, ethics, great and fun writing skills, as well individual values, through their creative writing.


I am very new to Blodeuedd's blog but you should take a look, it's good to find new bloggers isn't it? I would like to pass this award on to the following people:

1. Mrs L at Cupcakes and Peonies
2. Rebecca at Just One More Page
3. Nicole at Linus's Blanket
4. Melody at Melody's Reading Corner
5. Jo at Peachybooks
6. Violet at Violet Crush

Some of these blogs are new to me and some I have been following for a while. Either way they all have very interesting things to say, especially about books! The rules of the award are as follows:

1. To accept and show the distinct image
2. Show the link to the blog from which you were given the award.
3. Pass the award on to any blogs you believe should be recognised.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Library Week



This weeks Booking Through Thursday was suggested by Barbara and I think it's a really good one!

I saw that National Library week is coming up in April, and that led to some questions. How often do you use your public library and how do you use it? Has the coffeehouse/bookstore replaced the library? Did you go to the library as a child? Do you have any particular memories of the library? Do you like sleek, modern, active libraries or the older, darker, quiet, cozy libraries?

I am very lucky in that I have a public library literally at the top of my road! It is a very old Victorian building and houses a small children's and adults library; it does not have a massive collection of books but there is usually something to be found! I think I prefer older libraries like this to be honest, I think they are cosier and more inviting. We have lived in our current house for nearly two years now but I have probably only started using the library in the last few months. As I have written on this blog before, I kept putting off going in as I had a fine from the library where we previously lived due to being very late taking my books back. However, my other half nagged me to join this new one and I am glad I did and as it is only at the top of my road, I have no excuses for books being late!

My parents always encouraged me to read and I can remember that the hairdressers that I went to when I was little was right next to the library so once my hair had been cut I would go next door and read and pick some new books whilst my Mum had her hair done.

I think we can often take libraries for granted but when you think about it they provide a marvellous service. All you need do is join and then you have access to all of those beautiful books and it is free! I know that I will definitely encourage my children to use the library so that they can discover the wonderful world of reading for themselves!

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